How to write a script for comic strips?

Come sceneggiare una striscia a fumetti

When I wrote scripts for my short comics stories, first of all I wrote a plot. At the comic school, even though I attended the drawing course, we had scriptwriting lessons, so I learned about the different framings: wide and medium shot, close up, over-the-shoulder shot, etc.

I also used quick drawings, sketching the scene to be drawn to avoid the same shot in 2 continuous panels.

So, how to write a script for a comic strip?

I don’t remember how I created my first strips, but for the comic strips of my characters I outlined the strips and divided them into panels.

A comic strip tells a story

In my first attempts to draw comic strips I had not considered this important truth: a strip, even if made by only one panel, tells a story.

We can discuss a long time about what a story is, but for me a “story” is a narrative made by a beginning, a problem to be solved or a goal to be reached, obstacles along the way and, finally, a conclusion.

All in one comic strip? Yes. That’s a so-called three-act structure.

The three-act structure in comic strips

The American writer and editor Tim Stout wrote an interesting article on the 3-act structure in comic strips.

In the last strips I drew, I used this system: once I had the idea, I sketched the first panel and the last one, then I decided the others.

One panel comic strips

Striscia a fumetti di 1 vignetta

I’ve always loved the one panel comic strips. For my character I have “scripted” some of them, but in the editorial calendar I’ve alternated them with strips of more panels.

In the one panel strips you have to summarize the whole story into a joke. The rest is entrusted to the character and his actions, and to the landscape.

Two panels comic strips

Striscia a fumetti di 2 vignette

In two panels it’s easier to create a script. When I create these strips, I study the lines to understand how much space I had to give to each other.

Three panels comic strips

Striscia a fumetti di 3 vignette

Perhaps it’s the most usual formula of comic strips. In the first panel the character is about to perform an action, summarized in the next panel by an onomatopoeia. The conclusion comes to the last panel, with the results of the action and the final punch line.

Four (or more) panels comic strips

Striscia a fumetti di 4 vignette

Four or even 5 or more panels require good skills to define the space. The width of the panels begins to decrease, so it’s necessary to know how to create effective shots.