How to Write A Graphic Novel?

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Although they are seen everywhere these days, graphic novels are very hard to write and require constant work and editing to make them perfect and reach the point when we read them.

Not only do they require hard work but they also require mental labor, to the point the author can't think about anything other than their novel. Nevertheless, to those who have an immense passion for writing graphic novels, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing your characters and the story flow together at the end of the novel. 

Writing a graphic novel isn't just about drawing and sketching characters, there are many more technicalities involved than an average reader can think of, from thinking and writing down the plot to characters and their sketches, to making each and every scene such a way that the flow never breaks. 

In this article, we will discuss all the work that surrounds when writing a graphic novel. 

But first and foremost, what is a Graphic Novel?

A graphic novel is a novel that tells an entire story or tale through different illustrations. It is as the names say, it is a novel with graphics. A graphic novel is generally longer than an average comic book because it tells, not a comic story, but an actual novel through a variety of sketches and drawings. While a comic book is more of a chronological series from a longer tail, a novel is not too long, but the illustrations make it longer. 

History of Graphic Novel:

If we look at the first time the term graphic novel was used, it can be traced back to the time when Richard Kyle wrote an essay in the comic book fanzine Capa-Alpha was written. However, there is so solid definition of the time when the graphic novel first came into presence. The term 'Graphic Novel' gained much more fame and spotlight after the publication of 'A Contract with God', which was written by Will Eisner in 1978. 

Many comic researchers and historians state the fact that there might have been graphic novels made even before the term was first introduced. Tracing back to the 1919s, there was a work by Belgian Frans Masereel known as the Passionate Journey which was crafted by using woodcut traditions to tell the story. The method used in woodcut storytelling is imagery, and that can be classified as an olden graphic novel, similarly to that, in the 1930s, Lynd Ward printed wordless novels using woodcuts as well. 

Working out the features of writing a Graphic Novel:

All graphic novels have the same features and components as those of a traditional novel. These go along the lines of: 

  • A vivid start of the story, clear body, and strong end. 
  • All traditional novels have a single central story that is known as narrative A, and another optional narrative B is sometimes present as well. 
  • All the novels have a character that goes through amazing development and personal growth throughout the story.
  • There is always a particular message in the novel, depending on the theme.  
  • All the dialogues and narrations are very carefully constructed to follow the flow of the story. 

The difference between the features of a graphic novel and a traditional scripted novel is that a graphic novel allows the reader to have a more vivid image of what is happening with the help of dialogue bubbles and narration boxes, and the presentation of the characters in the scene. 

Varieties of Graphic Novels:

Graphic novels do not have only one category. Just like the traditional novels, they fall under five different divisions:

Individual anecdotes: These graphic novels contain the life events of the author. It can go on from a focused memory to the entire autobiography of the author. 

Non-fiction: These types of graphic novels are based on real-life events that have facts to prove their authenticity and are rooted in the events of history. 

Manga: A Manga is a type of graphic novel which is based on the aesthetics and sketching style of the Japanese Comic culture. 

Superhero stories: These are the most prominent kind of graphic novels/ They are based on fantasy and fiction as the protagonists and antagonists have some sort of supernatural abilities, whether they be from the tech powers or magical powers. The most prominent examples of this would be the comics of Marvel and DC. 

Non-superhero stories: These graphic novels can be fictional but are still based on the realities of the world we live in, without supernatural strengths, and so on. 

What the Author Needs before starting work on a Graphic Novel?

Many authors each year try to go deeper into graphic novel creation rather than just traditional novels and what they need to start their work is almost the same as what one needs to work on a traditional novel. Many of these requirements are practical, but some are rather stylish: 

Authors wishing to delve into the world of graphic novels need many of the same things that a traditional writer needs. Some are practical, and some are stylistic. They include:

  • First things first, if you, as an author, do not have the skills to sketch but only write a novel, or have the skills to sketch and draw but not to write a story, you can find yourself a partner. But if you can do both things yourself, you are ready to go. 
  • A good tale with a great storyline as well. You do not just need to make a good plot but plan an entire storyline with excitement, thrills, and whatever it is that you wish for in a story. Make sure to center the story around a three-dimensional character and make the world as detailed as possible to make the illustrations better. 
  • Your dialogues and narration in the graphic novels matter a lot, you need strong writing skills to make impactful narrations and dialogues. 
  • You need to create a visual style guide that will hold the details on how the settings and characters will be drawn. 
  • A graphic storyboard is very essential in graphic novels, they hold the plot of each and every scene in your novel. These boards are either drawn on a large graphic panel or more informally made on the artist's sketchbook. 

Tips on How to Write a Graphic Novel:

When you are starting to write your first graphic novel, you need to polish and work on your creative skills, your writing, storyboard, illustrations, and collaborative skills as well. As mentioned at the start of the article, graphic novels require a lot of work and need be to done accordingly in order to make a great graphic novel. Here are a few beneficial tips that might come in handy as you start working on a graphic novel:

  • Firstly, you need to gain more knowledge about the stylings of the graphic novel world. Study and read other graphic novels and comics to understand the workings. Without having a proper understanding of these graphic novels, it will become much harder to write one. 
  • Graphic novels need a foreground and a background. Your graphic novel needs to have an interesting setting as your scenes will reveal your setting both in the background and the foreground. If your setting keeps repeating, and there is nothing new in the scenes anymore, readers will get bored and leave the novel before it is completed. So, make sure to research your setting.
  • A graphic novel requires just as much if not more, attention to the detail. You cannot write a novel without textural detail, and the same goes for a graphic novel. Write your characters with given detail and good plots and characteristics, make you protagonist with a good background story, a compelling reason for what they are doing and your supporting characters should be as good as they are in a traditional novel.

 And your antagonist should not be just two-dimensional but have to be abstract and very interesting, after all, half the fame of the story comes from a compelling antagonist.

  • Most often than not, graphic novels are part of a much larger series and are divided into different smaller story arcs. As you are done outlining the novel and the storyboard, think about a sequel as well. That is why, when planning a graphic novel, try to think of ways to make the story longer and divide it into parts.
  • Writing a graphic novel is much work than one can imagine. You need to keep in mind, as you work on your novel that a graphic novel audience is far different than a general novel audience.

These readers might not even like reading novels, or they might love every sort of story-telling, so form a foundation of your audience in your brain and write for them. If you do not know the target audience, search for them. Many large cities hold graphic novel or comic conventions, go there, and find out your target audience. The more you know about the readers, the better you can work on your novel.

All in all, if you are new to the world of graphic novels and wish to create your own, hopefully, these tips and all the given information may come in handy. Just remember that as long as you work diligently and in the right direction, your work will turn out great. Follow the instructions of graphic novel writing, and if you get stuck or require help or guidance, you can always try to contact the many graphic novel authors in the working.

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