|Josiah's Sprite Comic Guide
Part 5: Script Writing 101
Now that your comic is starting to look good it's time to get started on the most important part, the script. No matter how great a comic looks, if the script isn't interesting and/or funny the readers are going to get bored fairly quickly. On the other hand, no matter how crappy a comic looks, people will still get hooked if the script is good enough. Ideally a comic should have good art and a good script, after all, art is a good attention grabber and no one really likes bad art, but when it comes down to it the script is more important.
Step 1: When to Write it
When exactly do you write the script? There's no right answer here as different people have different preferences. Some people likes to script everything out way ahead of time while others prefer to make it up as they go along. Keep in mind that the script is different than the overall story, which you should always plan out kinda far ahead of time. At very least, you should have a general idea of what'll be said before making a strip, even if you don't decide on the final dialogue until later.
Step 2: Short and Sweet
Since the script is such an important part of the comic, you need to think very carefully about what will be said. Ideally, the dialogue in each strip/page should be able to stand more or less by itself. Not that you shouldn't refer to things from previous strips or continue past conversations but you should still try to give the dialogue in each strip it's own starting and ending point. Reading a single strip, whether it's serious or humorous, should give you some sense of completeness. This can be a little tricky at first but you'll get used to it before long. It's a bit easier with jokes than serious conversation. With a joke you just need to make sure to have the punchline in the final panel and set up the joke itself as far in advance as neccessary. If the set up takes the whole strip that's fine, if it doesn't you could set it up later in the strip and use the first part for conversations or actions that are meant to advance the plot or develop the characters instead of just preparing for the joke. For serious stuff just try to give some sense of a definit beginning, middle, and end to the dialogue, even if that end is a cliff-hanger.
Step 3: Make Sure it's Funny or Serious
Just because you think your dialogue is great doesn't mean everyone else will, that's an important thing to realize. First off, don't use in jokes that only your friends will get (unless you don't plan on anyone besides those friends reading your comic). Second, get some other peoples' opinions, especially when you're first starting your comic. Try to poll a large range of people, boys, girls, kids, teens, adults, etc. The more people understand and like your dialogue the better. Next, don't use swear words unless there's a good reason to. A handful of character types swear a lot (like hardened criminals) but your average person isn't going to be swearing constantly, or even very often for that matter. Using lots of swear words without a really good reason (like say the character's home getting blown up) is annoying and tends to make your writing look rather amaturish. The same goes with "adult" humor. If you want to use that type of stuff in your comic ok, just try and do it in as tasteful and intelligent a way as you can. Despite being called adult or mature humor, that type of stuff generally seems to be written (and very poorly at that, seeing as it actually can be done well but rarely is) and enjoyed by very immature kids. Finally, please don't mention pie, boobs, or getting drunk unless you're doing so in an intelligent or genuinely amusing manner. It seems to be an annoyingly common misconception among pre and early teens that just mentioning any of that stuff is funny. It isn't. Plus trying to get laughs by constantly mentioning that stuff is going to turn away most readers pretty quickly.
Step 4: Size Matters
While you're busy writing all this great dialogue, keep it mind that you actually have to find a place in your comic to put it. In previous guides I mentioned the importance of leaving space in your strips for speech bubbles or text boxes or whatever it is you want to use. Now you need to make sure that your dialogue will fit in those spots. In a nutshell, make sure your lines of text aren't too long to fit in their proper place and make sure there aren't too many lines either. Depending on how much space you have once the art is all in place you might have to rewrite some of your dialogue to make it fit, triming out unnecessary words, rewording sentences, etc. It's a rather annoying process but, with enough planning, you can avoid it most of the time.
Step 5: Learn to Spell
You'd think this would be a given but a lot of people either don't know proper spelling and grammar or don't care. And yes, it does matter. Everyone except the insanely picky will forgive the rare typo that slips past proof reading, but anything more than that is a problem. If the program you're using to make your comics has a spell checker use it. If it doesn't, then type up your dialogue in Microsoft Word or a similiar program, spell check it there, then paste it into your comic. Some programs have a grammar check too, although they're often a bit iffy. The best things to do about grammar are pay attention in school and read your dialogue out loud, if it doesn't sound natural or like something that a real person would say then there's probably something wrong with the grammar (unless it's just a really weird phrase).
The script and dialogue are without doubt the most important parts of a comic. They're also the parts that most often get screwed up. Fortunately, with some practice, common sense, and education, anyone can learn to write well (creativity and humor, on the other hand, you usually either have or you don't). Whatever you do, don't be tempted to rush the dialogue or use corney lines and dumb or immature jokes. Good looking art or a catchy title may get people to start reading your comic but if they don't like the script they won't stay for long. So start writing, get some second opinions, and keep trying until you've got something good. And, once you've got your script figured out, check out Josiah's Sprite Comic Guide Part 6: Building Effective Speech Bubbles.
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