Friday, November 19, 2010
Guest Post: How Graphic Novels are Made
by Aaron Reynolds and Neil Numberman
(Interior. Aaron Reynolds, a writer of children’s books and graphic novels, is sitting at his writing desk. He’s typing, but suddenly stops when a shadow falls over his screen. It’s a kid, about ten or eleven.)
Aaron: (looking up) Hey.
Kid: Hey. Whatcha doin’?
Aaron: Um…writing. Who are you? What are you doing in my writing room?
Aaron: Ah. A random kid in my writing room. Okay.
Kid: Graphic novels? Like comic books?
Kid: Whatcha writing now?
Aaron: An article about how a graphic novel gets made, but I wanted to write it LIKE a graphic novel, so that’s what I’m doing.
Kid: But…there’s no pictures. A graphic novel has lots of pictures.
Aaron: Not at first. Not mine anyway.
Aaron: Seriously. I don’t draw.
Kid: I must have the wrong house then. I thought the dude that lives here makes graphic novels.
Aaron: I do. But I don’t draw them….I write them.
(Kid pauses while he thinks about this, then…)
Aaron: No, it’s not.
Kid: You can’t make a graphic novel without being able to draw.
Aaron: Well, I do. Like my new graphic novel…it’s called Joey Fly, Private Eye…
Kid: Way to work that in there. Nice plug. Smooth.
Kid: Just the stuff people say?
Aaron: Mostly. I also write in what I see happening in each scene.
(Kid flops into a big cushy chair and puts his feet on Aaron’s writing desk, makes himself at home. He looks at Aaron like he’s lost his mind.)
Aaron: See? Like that. It’s called “stage directions”.
Kid: Oh cool! Like actions and stuff!
Aaron: Yeah, exactly.
Kid: Do it again.
Kid: Hey, that’s awesome how you made me do all that stuff! And I do hate tuna.
Kid: But it’s not a graphic novel. No pictures.
Aaron: Not yet. It will be soon. But first, I break it into panels.
Aaron: Like this. Chunks. How I imagine it will get broken into boxes in the finished graphic novel. This helps me figure out the flow and pacing of the story, helps me cut extra junk that’s not needed, and helps the illustrator figure out how he’s gonna lay out the pictures on the page.
Kid: Cool. I notice you use lots of words like “gonna” and “whatcha” and stuff. My Language Arts teacher would go nuts on you for that.
Joey: Life in the bug city. It ain’t easy. Crime sticks to this city like a one-winged fly on a fifty-cent swatter.
Aaron: Like that. That’s his opening line in the book.
Aaron: Well, I try.
Aaron: Man, for a random kid who shows up in my writing room, you’re seriously pushy.
Kid: Do you know many eleven-year-olds? We’re all like this.
Aaron: That’s right. Not being one, I forget sometimes.
Kid: You tell him what to draw?
Kid: You tell him what the characters should look like?
Kid: What do you tell him?
Aaron: Nothing. Most of the time, we never even meet.
(pause…the kid’s mouth is hanging open.)
Kid: That is seriously messed up.
Aaron: That’s how it works. Unless you are the writer and the illustrator (which I’m not…I don’t draw, remember?), that’s how it works.
Kid: So what happens then?
Aaron: The illustrator looks at it and begins to sketch out what he thinks the characters look like.
Aaron: Like, for Joey Fly, Private Eye, the illustrator is a guy named Neil Numberman.
Aaron: Hey Neil. So, Neil might decide after reading this script that you look like this:
Kid: That’s me?
Kid: You made me a bug!
Neil: Well, we’re talking about Joey Fly, Private Eye, so I’m thinking in bugs. It’s my job to use my imagination, to come up with my ideas of what Aaron’s characters and story look like.
Neil: And as I start drawing and figuring out what it all looks like, Aaron’s story moves away from being a script and I start creating real characters…
Neil: …and pretty soon, I take Aaron’s written words and begin to put them into the mouths of the characters I’ve created.
Aaron Reynolds is a human, not a bug, but he often writes about bugs. He is the author of Chicks and Salsa, Superhero School, Snowbots, and, of course, the Joey Fly, Private Eye graphic novels. Visit him at his website at http://www.aaron-reynolds.com/.
Thanks again to Neil and Aaron for being here today! And to all of you who came out! I will be in the comments off and on throughout the day. Hope you all enjoyed this as much as I did and can't wait to see who won the contest! Stay tuned!