Telling a Story Like a Comic Book

In sports, there’s something known as cross training where people practice other types of exercises to help them get better at the sport they want to pursue. For example boxers may jog to increase stamina while swimmers may lift weights to increase arm strength.

In the writing world, it’s important to study other forms of writing to think and express yourself in different ways. As a screenwriter, you need to tell a story in pictures so one way to do that is by thinking like a comic book writer.

Comic books focus on visual images, just like movies, but the difference is that when comic books include dialogue, the words physical take up space. Therefore comic book writers must focus more on creating visual images and rely less on dialogue.

In comic books, each image must be interesting in itself. That means an artist highlights the most important parts of a story and emphasizes that image.

Because dialogue takes up physical space, comic book writers must limit dialogue as much as possible. The main purpose of dialogue is to help understand the visual images of a comic book.

For example, suppose a comic book shows several images of a man and woman strolling through a park. That image itself would likely be interpreted as a couple enjoying each other’s company. Therefore, dialogue must define exactly what’s going on.

What if the dialogue had the couple whispering to each other about what they see around them? Then that scene would take on intrigue because we’d want to know what that couple is doing and what they’re looking for.

What if we see that same image, but their dialogue reveals they’re arguing? Now instead of seeing a couple strolling outside together in love, new might reveal that they’re fighting each other, but trying to maintain appearances in front of others.

In short, dialogue is only necessary when the visual images aren’t clear by themselves. By remembering this key point, you can write sharper, shorter, crisper dialogue in your screenplays and rely more on the visual action to tell your story, just like a comic book writer.

The more visually you can think, the better your story will be. Then use dialogue to further define what the visual image is all about.

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