Comic Talk and General Discussion

Writing dialogue
ozoneocean at 8:19PM, July 29, 2016
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How do you do this? Script it out extensively beforehand or write it off the cuff when the page is finished?
And more importantly: which way is better?

For me I do the art firs and come up with the dialogue last, after the page is done.
I know what the scene is trying to convey so doing it that way my dialogue can be more natural and fit with the nuances of the “on-screen” action better, as well as be paired down so it doesn't cover too much art, haha!

But I find that even when I script it all out first I STILL have to pair it right down when it comes time to put it on the page… THREE big advantages of pre-scripted dialogue though are:
1. It's already written so you don't have to think and cogitate and worry for ages over getting it jusssst right or getting anything at all to come out of your damn head.

2. You KNOW exactly what the characters so you can pace things out a bit better with the panelling and you know how much and how little to draw in a scene because you know how much word bubble space you'll need.

3. You can make characters “act” to the nuances of the script and act off what other characters have said in a more believable and engaging way.
 
bravo1102 at 9:34PM, July 29, 2016
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I've always written the script first. In fact, most of my stories start as snippets of dialogue.

Using my theater experience and film study I block out a scene noting placement of figures and faces with expression and movement on each frame. I'm very wedded to film mise en scene. Where and how a character delivers a line can be as important as the line itself.

All that said the lines have to “snap”. The best way to write dialogue is to LISTEN. Watch and pay attention to how people move and speak. Note gesture, stance and other aspects of body language. But most of all: listen.

Somehow my readers think I do it well. An under read hack like myself might just have something to teach you.

I go through at least three rewrites before I even lay out a panel. Each word is weighed and trimmed and often rewritten to indicate character. People do not all speak a like. Different folks have individual idioms as well as dialect. Something I learned doing and teaching public speaking was know the words and phrases you use and overuse. We all know about “like” but there are plenty of others.

And I haven't even scratched the surface yet





Genejoke at 12:07AM, July 30, 2016
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This is something I've been thinking on lately. Much of the time I don't fully script my comics and only block out events, often just in my head, but when I do script things it's often very raw conversation that later gets edited down.

Mostly I do it the same as Ozone though, except with Blood and water (my new comic) which is 100% scripted… until I get to the lettering stage where things may get altered at the last minute. The reasons is that it's a tighter story than I usually do. I want to ensure each character has a distinct voice, to get the nuance in there that I sometimes miss when doing it at the end of the page. Time will tell if this method works better for me or not.
usedbooks at 4:03AM, July 30, 2016
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I script at least half a dozen drafts long before I get to pages. One of the reasons I ventured into comics as an expressive medium was because I realized my prose was becoming mostly dialogue, and “He said… She replied…” Was redundant and boring to read. I figured I might as well be writing play/screenplay format.

I have scripts written for four or five full chapters and many partial ones or misc. scenes (enough for a few years worth of art). The first draft usually feels forced, just clumsily advancing plot. I work well in advance, so when the real inspired dialogue finds purchase in my brain, I can pull out my script and do the rewrite. Final dialogue needs to be perfect, natural, concise, and “off the cuff” – which takes a lot of work, planning, and a lot of rewrites.

I find that first drafts have the biggest problem with not having the right voice. I have to be in character mindset. Sometimes I get in the right mood and rewrite a certain character's scenes. So, basically I make patchwork revisions until it all fits.

When I draw pages, the script is rewritten again to fit the page. Sometimes I'm still not happy with it and will rephrase things each step of the way. But by that point, I've usually at least got a handle on what is most necessary to include and what is most natural for the characters.


(And I will agonize over wording. Sometimes a word or phrase choice seems super significant to me. On more than one occasion I've enlisted the opinions/feedback of other/better writers.)
last edited on July 30, 2016 4:09AM
bravo1102 at 8:20AM, July 30, 2016
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usedbooks wrote:
I script at least half a dozen drafts long before I get to pages. One of the reasons I ventured into comics as an expressive medium was because I realized my prose was becoming mostly dialogue, and “He said… She replied…” Was redundant and boring to read. I figured I might as well be writing play/screenplay format.

I couldn't find the right balance between description and dialogue. Also no matter how much a rewrote description it always sounded forced or too detailed versus not detailed enough.

So much of what you describe mirrors my own process. Though I am nowhere near as polished as you are. Your dialogue is so natural.

(And I will agonize over wording. Sometimes a word or phrase choice seems super significant to me.

Oh so much so. Just the right word fits a character and nothing else catches what is being portrayed.

And then there is action through dialogue as opposed to having dialogue just be reaction and description. Having dialogue propel the action not just an appendage that is forced upon the characters.
“Oh a character has to say this, which character?”

That kind of scattershot writing can really be so fake. Putting in the dialogue as a seeming afterthought after everything else is done just doesn't work for me. Some reactions to action occur to me at that point in the creation of a scene but not any major plot driven dialogue, just quips.
ozoneocean at 11:00PM, July 30, 2016
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I don't think the quality of the dialogue is that stark depending on the approach you take. It depends more on your sexpereince… I mean experience.
Sexpereince sounds like it should be a word though. I'm keeping that typo :)

Well that brings me to something- doing too many revisions and being too careful can polish out the happy accidents, grittiness, roughness, and energy that can really add a whole lot of character and freshness! So that's a good argument in favour of leaving the dialogue till last.
 
usedbooks at 3:29AM, July 31, 2016
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Actually, for me, planning in advance is what allows for the happy accidents and inspiration. Because my brain isn't on a schedule. My scripts are patchwork. I've built entire arcs around snippets of dialogue that popped into my head.

I can't trust my brain to perform on cue. I have to write the “inspired” dialogue down when it happens. My first draft is a placeholder for those golden sparks of inspiration. They usually come randomly, not in order, and a scene or character at a time. (Sometimes I end up rewriting large chunks of plot when the inspiration hits, but that's my process. I need the framework set up to catch those thoughts.) It does end up becoming many rewrites. Basically it goes Draft (plot framework) –> inspiration –> new scene with perfect dialogue –> arc section rewrite or response rewrite to match inspired part –> domino effect to other inspiration –> more rewrites

While I'm waiting for inspiration, I end up inspired for scenes that don't fit into an existing script or arc, which is why I also have bits of rogue dialogue hanging around my folders waiting for framework. My favorite scenes required really ‘channeling’ certain characters, which can happen at weird times I have no control over.


It all basically is part of the same premise. Forced dialogue doesn't work. For me, working chaotically on paper three years in advance means I usually have that “inspired” script by the time I need it. If I waited until I finished a page before even trying, I'd never manage a regular update schedule. (I've had drafts waiting over a year before getting that “inpired” dialogue.) Reworking a script deliberately doesn't give final dialogue but might help spark the thought processes to provide inpiration for another patchwork bit of inspiration.
last edited on July 31, 2016 3:39AM
usedbooks at 3:32AM, July 31, 2016
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And as bravo said, dialogue leads my plot. It is literally all I write. XD Some people do outlines. I do scripts.
usedbooks at 3:55AM, July 31, 2016
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Btw, for me, “rewrite” is not polishing. It is “throw out the old script completely; I have a better one.” I do ocassionally agonize over asingle line that isn't quite right. Too often it requires more than tweaking that line, and it becomes anonissue when I change the whole scene.

I keep every draft, though. Just in case I decide I like a previos version when it gets to zero hour.
Bruno Harm at 6:30AM, July 31, 2016
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I work from a very loose outline, because I have to come up with jokes. I also come up with jokes and then have to find places I can work them in. I usually know the part of the story I'm trying to get through in a panel, but I have to agonize about how to make it entertaining at the same time. In a perfect world, each strip would stand on it's own in some way, while also moving the plot forward. So it's very hard to script it out exactly ahead of time. I often have to split scenes into multiple strips and then I'm left with this space to fill with humor. I need a team of writers..
bravo1102 at 9:25PM, July 31, 2016
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“Every first draft is perfect because all a first draft has to do is exist.”

“The first draft of anything is shit.”

So in existing a first draft is perfect, but on that page is nothing but shit. But at least it is there. So doing dialogue last may work for some, but most of the time it will lead to mechanical shit just to propel plot or deliver a punchline. If you have a line and then cast about for who is to say it you need to work on your characterization.

But actually there is no right answer, what works for you is what works for you. However there are ways to do it better and in making pretty pictures and letting the words come last, most of the time you end up with pretty pictures and the dialogue reads like the afterthought it is. It'll be first draft shit.

As in any performance dialogue evolves. There is the written word, then the polished word, then there is blocking. Well that line works better over here and this other one is unnecessary. But this character would make this remark. My typed scripts become totally overlaid with scribble while blocking out sequences. Then laying out the panels and page additional lines to clarify action suggest themselves and whole speeches get digested down to a line or two.

There can be a huge difference between “this is the way I do things” and “the best way to do things”

Sometimes totally turning your work habits upside down just might lead to a better product.
last edited on July 31, 2016 9:27PM
Gunwallace at 3:04AM, Aug. 1, 2016
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I write conversations first. Often I'm not even sure who is talking … which leads to a lot of editing later. However, ever since The Banes Method (all praise to The Banes) entered my life I also try to order my conversations into the framework The Banes Method specifies (May it live a thousand years. All Praise to The Banes.)

For example …
Here's some dialogue I jotted down for something I'm writing.

That's a good song.
It's a ballad tho.
So?
We don't do ballads.
Well, if we did it'd be that one. It has fuck in the title and everything.
True, but still … a ballad?
If Brainless Toilet doesn't do ballads, then maybe Trish Trash and her backing band do.
Trish Trash? You're giving up the Titts?
Yeah. After all, who wants to see a pair of saggy fifty year old boobs?
(they all raise their hands)
I think you'd be surprised.
And a little revolted.
I think it goes on the album.
Me too.
I think it's a single.

All I know at this point is it's a conversation between four band members. Some of the lines definitely belong to characters, Trish, her husband, the drummer. But there's a bass player in there as well, and he needs a line or two. Not sure which one's he gets yet.

The Banes Method (praise it) tells me this bit goes into FUN and GAMES. The band (from the early 80s) has reformed in the present day, and is performing new songs. They are enjoying themselves. The gunmen that arrive moments later help propel the plot into the next phase, and introduce some B-Story complications in the men's toilet.

Obviously there is a lot of rewriting and editing to come. Maybe in a year or two it will be a comic. Time will tell.
David ‘Gunwallace’ Tulloch, www.virtuallycomics.com
ozoneocean at 4:36AM, Aug. 1, 2016
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@Bravo, I think you're being a little too “this is the RIGHT WAY and other ways are bad” even though you're trying not to make it sound that way XD

One of the things we forget about comics is that it's not pictures plus writing, it's writing in the FORM of pictures- so depending on how you work (how much thought you've put into the script and how much story you've packed into the art etc) by the time it comes to put the dialogue in there it's a culmination rather than an “afterthought”.
 
usedbooks at 4:57AM, Aug. 1, 2016
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Yep. We have different methods, but also different kinds of projects. I think saying “comics are _____” or “drafts are _____” is flawed because those are personal opinions not hard truths.

I have to write things down or I lose them forever. Someone who works out of his head might critisize and say I'm over-editing or going to spoil it, but I simply put every thought on paper. And, like I mentioned, dialogue leads my story. Characters react to it. Dialogue change causes plot change, and maintaining a weekly update scedule means working ahead a good way and means I need to have it on paper to alter plot and action once I have that dialogue. I draw my art to fit the dialogue. It probably is part of my “writer's brain.” I need my writing prompts to inspire the art – rather than vice versa. I think in words, not pictures.

Oz, to me it sounds like you have dialogue drafts but all in your brain rather than on paper. I tend to be thinking about six arcs at a time and hate to lose “the perfect line/exchange” so I write it down. That's how I end up with several versions of a conversation (sometimes leading to several possible alternate outcomes).

I have a terribly cluttered mind.




It helps to know different methods/techniques/processes without labeling a “superior” one. If you are struggling, try a different order/angle. (Oz, you kind of started this “my way is best” thing by posing that exact question: “Which is better?”)
last edited on Aug. 1, 2016 5:14AM
bravo1102 at 5:20AM, Aug. 2, 2016
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Face it ozoneocean, I am saying that the dialogue in Pinky TA is shit. ;-D No, in truth I am saying that anything I tried to compose that way would be shit. Though it is hard to imagine my stuff being any worse. I am way too insecure to let any first draft get past the draft stage. Even something as inconsequential as a comic jam page goes through three scribbled rewrites.

I can't write on the fly with pictures like that because like usedbooks I come at this as a writer. Even though I visualize everything being a visual thinker, a story of people to me is them talking and interacting. Even if it is just a raised eyebrow, it is still dialogue. You read correctly, facial expressions are considered dialogue in many screenplays.

I do screenplays and then break them down into scenes and then each movement in the scene becomes a panel. I see and hear the scene and sometimes gesticulate as I write. I guess that's why I pay so much attention to body language.

There is no right or wrong way, only the right or wrong way for YOU. But that doesn't mean you can't experiment outside of your comfort zone to see if something else could work. I tried doing all images and then going back and filling in dialogue and I did about ten pages. Then I went back to finish it and had no clue what I was supposed to be doing after the second page. The flow was all gone.

How I write is a process born of some four decades of experimentation and experience. I know what works for me and I have gotten a lot of it from talking to other writers over time. Listening is important. Remember and write down patterns and snatches of dialogue as they come to you. Keep a notebook of phrases for future reference. You never know when you'll need a clever line.

A lot what I say here is what I wish I could pull off as opposed to what I have actually done. I can compose real sounding and clever dialogue but that rarely makes up for a bad story.
last edited on Aug. 2, 2016 5:29AM
KimLuster at 2:55PM, Aug. 2, 2016
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For each page, I have a rough draft in my head of how I want the dialogue to be. Or at least the high points… I picture what I want pretty much for each panel (which I also have a draft in my head when I start drawing it). When I actually start writing the dialogue (which only happens once the art is completely done), I'll modify it, depending I did with the art, or just because I ‘feel’ it a bit differently, but the ‘spirit’ of what I initially had in my head never changes (or at least hasn't yet…). Like many here, I sorta consider myself a writer first, and I find it odd that I don't actually do any writing until the art is done…!! But then, it is written - in my head!! Here's to my memory staying functional!! :D
irrevenant at 11:33PM, Aug. 2, 2016
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I script things out in advance and make sure I know what my dialogue is in advance for the simple reason that I need to know whether or not I can fit it onto the page!

The page I just finished, in my wisdom I decided to include vast amounts of detail and vast amounts of text. (Looking back, I probably should have made it two pages). If I hadn't known in advance what the text was and how much space it was going to take up when I composed the page I would've hidden most of the artwork.
usedbooks at 5:07AM, Aug. 3, 2016
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That's another reason it's helpful to have it written down. I've gotten decent at eyeballing the length of a script to decide to either pare it down or use two pages to present it.
bravo1102 at 5:04PM, Aug. 3, 2016
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And I can go up to two, three or even four pages of comic for one page of script.

I think the worst was seven pages for a fight scenes that was three sentences in the script.
Gunwallace at 2:06AM, Aug. 4, 2016
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My favorite bit of dialogue from something I will hopefully make with Playmobil next year …

(The bartender talks to Kevin, an insomniac vampire)
Have you considered sleeping at night?
But that's when I should be out vampiring.
Yes, but if you can't sleep during the day you could switch things up a bit?
I can't go out in the sunlight.
When is it ever sunny around here? It's always overcast and raining.
Even that would kill me.
Really?
Oh yes. A few minutes out in the rain would be as bad as standing in a ray of bright sunlight.
Cripes. It's a wonder there's any of you lot left.
What do mean?
You vampires seem to be killed by just about everything. Running water, wooden stakes, silver weapons, sunlight.
A vampire is a terrifying creature of power.
Nah. A canary is better adapted for survival than a vampire.
No one runs screaming from a canary.
Yes they do.
When?
When you're in a mineshaft and the canary's just died.

I have no idea how I'll make it into an interesting page though.
David ‘Gunwallace’ Tulloch, www.virtuallycomics.com
bravo1102 at 10:58PM, Aug. 4, 2016
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Gunwallace wrote:
My favorite bit of dialogue from something I will hopefully make with Playmobil next year …

(The bartender talks to Kevin, an insomniac vampire)
Have you considered sleeping at night?
But that's when I should be out vampiring.
Yes, but if you can't sleep during the day you could switch things up a bit?
I can't go out in the sunlight.
When is it ever sunny around here? It's always overcast and raining.
Even that would kill me.
Really?
Oh yes. A few minutes out in the rain would be as bad as standing in a ray of bright sunlight.
Cripes. It's a wonder there's any of you lot left.
What do mean?
You vampires seem to be killed by just about everything. Running water, wooden stakes, silver weapons, sunlight.
A vampire is a terrifying creature of power.
Nah. A canary is better adapted for survival than a vampire.
No one runs screaming from a canary.
Yes they do.
When?
When you're in a mineshaft and the canary's just died.

I have no idea how I'll make it into an interesting page though.

I could do with my vampire figures and bar set. Though it's a big setup for a weak punchline. Needs something else. Maybe a few visuals illustrating how a vampire dies?
last edited on Aug. 4, 2016 11:00PM
bravo1102 at 10:07PM, Aug. 5, 2016
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bravo1102 wrote:
Gunwallace wrote:
My favorite bit of dialogue from something I will hopefully make with Playmobil next year …

(The bartender talks to Kevin, an insomniac vampire)
Have you considered sleeping at night?
But that's when I should be out vampiring.
Yes, but if you can't sleep during the day you could switch things up a bit?
I can't go out in the sunlight.
When is it ever sunny around here? It's always overcast and raining.
Even that would kill me.
Really?
Oh yes. A few minutes out in the rain would be as bad as standing in a ray of bright sunlight.
Cripes. It's a wonder there's any of you lot left.
What do mean?
You vampires seem to be killed by just about everything. Running water, wooden stakes, silver weapons, sunlight.
A vampire is a terrifying creature of power.
Nah. A canary is better adapted for survival than a vampire.
No one runs screaming from a canary.
Yes they do.
When?
When you're in a mineshaft and the canary's just died.

I have no idea how I'll make it into an interesting page though.

I could do with my vampire figures and bar set. Though it's a big setup for a weak punchline. Needs something else. Maybe a few visuals illustrating how a vampire dies?

I got something. Have it take place in the mineshaft. The Vampire works in a mineshaft because of his insomnia.

Make the punchline pertinent to their current situation.
last edited on Aug. 5, 2016 10:09PM
toondoctor at 8:16AM, Aug. 7, 2016
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My dialogues are so short that I write them on a notepad app on my phone where I plot my stories.
Gunwallace at 12:48PM, Aug. 7, 2016
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bravo1102 wrote:
I could do with my vampire figures and bar set. Though it's a big setup for a weak punchline. Needs something else. Maybe a few visuals illustrating how a vampire dies?

Genius. I will do little thought visuals of the vampire deaths, and a dead canary. I have been thinking too straitforwardly. I think I'm going to draw this cartoon rather than use toys. It's 80+ pages long though, so no-one hold their breath.
David ‘Gunwallace’ Tulloch, www.virtuallycomics.com
Genejoke at 1:36PM, Aug. 7, 2016
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toondoctor wrote:
My dialogues are so short that I write them on a notepad app on my phone where I plot my stories.

I do the same, but write pages and pages on my phone.
usedbooks at 11:53AM, Aug. 9, 2016
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I documented the contents of one of my portfolios in 2013. This is basically my brain:



Big version

(Not counting the digital drafts/versions of scripts. I end up going on a hell of a scavenger hunt when I go to sort through to organize my next arc.)

Each, little pile is a chapter or arc. I had five complete arcs when I took this picture. The “orphan scripts” (1) are also complete arcs (first drafts) that don't fit anywhere yet.
last edited on Aug. 9, 2016 11:57AM
bravo1102 at 6:04PM, Aug. 9, 2016
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And then there is representing what is not said in a dialogue. Words are one thing, but inference, context and meaning are another.

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