Creating a Graphic Novel: Choosing an Artist

While I'm hurriedly finishing up the graphic novel "script" for part one of A Prophecy Forgotten: Book I of the Elysian Chronicles, I figured I would share a bit of the process of creating a graphic novel–or in my case, adapting a novel into a graphic novel.

Once Wandering Sage Publications, ArcheBooks, and I came to an agreement that Wandering Sage would produce a graphic novel adaptation of A Prophecy Forgotten, we needed to find an artist.

Well, you don't just copy a page of your novel and throw it out on the Internet. You've got to tell the artist what to draw. The more detailed you are, the easier and faster it is for the artist. My job was to write a "script" for one page of a graphic novel. Here's the part where the vocabulary comes in–Wandering Sage had to teach it to me. I guess in comic book lingo, a page usually has 6-7 panels. (A panel is a box with, say, Batman and Robbin running and a dialogue bubble coming out of Robin's mouth with the words, "Holy toasted popcorn, Batman! The Joker almost killed us!")

That meant I had to try my hand at writing a graphic novel script for one page of A Prophecy Forgotten–6 panels. Honestly, choosing which scene to write about was the hardest part. Originally, I considered using a high-octane scene with lots of action, but Shane Moore (a fellow author and VP of Wandering Sage's graphic novel division) suggested I do a scene with high emotion because action is easier for an artist to draw.

So I chose my climax–the scene right before the villain is revealed. (If you're going to make it difficult, make it really difficult!)

My biggest problem: I have never written a graphic novel. I've also never read comic books. The only thing I've done remotely close to a graphic novel was a full length romantic comedy screen play that I wrote for the original Project Greenlight contest, which I obviously didn't win.

Freak out! I'm a perfectionist, and I want to do things well. It's really hard to do things well if you have no idea what you are doing!!

My first objective–get my hands on some graphic novels. I borrowed V for Vendetta, 300, and The Dark Knight: Batman Returns from a graphic novel loving friend, and read them. (Well, I skimmed Batman.) I focused on dialogue, how scenes were set up, and how everything seemed to flow together.

My second objective–get professional advice on how to write a graphic novel script. That involved a trip to the bookstore and a $20 purchase of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Creating a Graphic Novel by writer Nat Gertler and artist Steve Lieber. I read it through, cover to cover (and I also read the aforementioned graphic novels) over Memorial Day weekend in Texas.

I created a script for a page using Mr. Gertler's format, sent it off to Shane, and waited while Shane sent out an all call to artists and sent them my page. (Now, to be fair, I also created a very lengthy description of each of the characters in the scene, as well as the armor. If you've read A Prophecy Forgotten, you know how important the armor is.)

Then, I waited until Shane received submissions and forwarded them to me. We chose Adam Black for a few reasons. First, he had a bit of a resume, meaning he has a pre-existing audience. This will help graphic novel sales. Second, Adam was able to put several details into his drawing that showed intangible emotion. That's really the only way I can describe it. It's like, you look at a scene and feel something more than just what the scene is supposed to show. (300 is a good example of that.)

I can't show you the full script for the page that I wrote, nor can I show you Adam's whole page–as that would give away too many spoilers for those of you who have not read A Prophecy Forgotten. I will give you an example of the first panel and what Adam did with it.

What I wrote:
(1)
Interior, night. Glow torch sconces illuminate the Command Bunker’s stone walls. Stars peak in through arched windows. Maps, drawings, and tables lay strewn across the floor. Camera angle looking above torso of a dead LAF SOLDIER lying face down on a table with a sword sticking out of his back (where his wings hit) and focusing on the door, where DAVIAN, MARCUS, TYCE, and THEO have burst in. Door slams against the wall. Davian is in front. Marcus stands behind his left shoulder. Theo & Tyce stand behind his right. They are all grungy, with scrapes and bruises from fighting for four hours.

1 CAPTION: The Command Bunker
2 MARCUS: What happened?
3 DAVIAN: Where’s Zephor?

Yes, the dialogue is a little cheesier than I prefer, but remember that this is a graphic novel. It's about the pics.

Adam's Panel


I like the armor, here. (I hope Adam likes drawing it, because he's going to be drawing it a lot!) I also liked Davian's wings as he came running through the door. You'll note that Adam didn't draw everything I said to draw. There's no Theo and Tyce coming in. But he's the visual guy–he figured out that Theo and Tyce just wouldn't fit. I respect that, and I want that in an artist. This whole thing is about making the graphic novel look good. Not about me getting my way.

Here are some more of what Adam drew and why I liked it.

Dude, Adam nailed Marcus–don't you think? (I'm sure all of you can see why I'm so excited to be working with Adam.)

Here, my villain has just finished killing…someone… Sorry, gotta keep the spoilers out. I loved this drawing because it's shows motion. The sword is mid-swing, and it looks like it's moving. I also like the villain's pose. It's so high-testosterone, and you can tell the villain is angry and bitter. There is emotion in his stroke.


This one was amazing. (It's part of the above panel. This actually was the clincher on the decision to go with Adam. Notice the soldiers' wings, and look at the difference in wings here from Davian's wings above. Adam made a subtle change in the wings, almost making them stick up straight, which accentuates their evil look. I just thought it was brilliant!

 

I hope that you all have a better understanding of why we chose Adam and why I'm so excited about this whole thing!

Stay tuned for my next blogs about concept art and writing the script.

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About M. B. Weston

M. B. Weston is an award-winning fantasy, pulp, young adult, steampunk, and paranormal author. Her attention to procedure and detail gives her works an authentic gritty, military feel that takes an adventure tale to the level of a true page-turner. Weston’s writing attracts both fantasy and non-fantasy readers, and her audience ranges from upper-elementary students to adults. A gifted orator, Weston has been invited as a guest speaker to numerous writing and science fiction/fantasy panels at conventions across the US, including DragonCon, BabelCon, NecronomiCon, and Alabama Phoenix Festival. She has served on panels with such authors as Sherrilyn Kenyon, J. F. Lewis, Todd McCaffrey, and Jonathan Maberry. Weston has spoken to thousands of students and adults about the craft of writing and has been invited as the keynote speaker at youth camps and at several schools throughout the US.
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