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Old 06-30-2019, 04:11 AM   #1
fourth_world
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Keeping Your Dialogue on Track

So I've written a couple of comics before without any significant issues. I determined a process that worked for me. However, with this particular comic, I've never hit so many roadblocks that I would love to get through.

For instance, I have been fleshing out this one particular story for several years now. I know the characters pretty well. The entire comic (or "graphic novella" to be more precise) is surrounded around a single conversation between two people in one location. I think I figured out a way to really make it outstanding. (I've told the story to several people and they've all been really intrigued by it.)

Last month, I developed an outline for the comic that I was mostly alright with. Writer friends kept suggesting to me to just finish the outline and write the script and not worry about making the outline perfect. So I'm trying that and I figure once I get an editor to look at this draft then I can fix any flaws in the outline.

Once I got to writing the script, I couldn't figure out whether to start with page beats and then fill in with panel descriptions and dialogue (as I did the previous comics) or start with dialogue and then split it up into panels with descriptions. The second made most sense in this case and it's what I read some big name pros do. But now I'm trying to write the dialogue and the conversation is just meandering and rambling (similar to this post haha). I'm currently on page 7 of the script and I can't seem to progress the conversation ahead to the next beat and follow my outline no matter how hard I try. So my story/script is stuck in the mud, so to speak.

To be honest, I really like the dialogue I have now, but I'm not good with 5 pages of no progress and barely any information. It feels like the equivalent of small talk. I know I need to slim it down and get through the beats faster, but I'm really struggling with this.

Any advice or tips would be 100% welcome.
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Old 06-30-2019, 12:10 PM   #2
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Of course I don't know the exact particulars of the dialogue you are dealing with but from creative theory this looks like a throw out your baby scenario.
When drawing one of the hardest thing to do is to realise that really cool drawing you just did does not serve the purpose you had intended. It looks cool and you have never done any quite like it before and it might be the best drawing you have ever done. It's my baby! If it does not serve throw to the curb.
Maybe you can take some aspects of what you have done and spread it out over the rest of the story if you really feel there is some thing you want to keep. For instance if you have some really great character development or some thing like that it would be advantageous to work it into the story in little pieces here and there.
Again with out specifics it is hard to know what to do but this is common problem.
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Old 06-30-2019, 05:57 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by artsnake View Post
Of course I don't know the exact particulars of the dialogue you are dealing with but from creative theory this looks like a throw out your baby scenario.
Yeah. I'm happy to scrap the current draft of dialogue. I'm definitely not too attached to it. I just am surprised after several years of working on it that I'm finally in a good place with it, but now it's just really long-winded...or maybe it isn't. I don't exactly know what the right pace for scenes in comics are. Most mainstream stuff is very condensed.

I'm just trying to figure out how to make sure my script doesn't end up 500 pages long. I don't think my reader would have the patience for that. haha The original plan was 8-15 pgs then it got bumped to 25 then eventually around 40 or so pages. At this rate, it could be much longer. I was hoping for one major beat at least every other page, but it keeps wanting to spread it longer. It's a melodrama, so maybe that's okay? I don't know. haha
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Old 07-01-2019, 03:05 PM   #4
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Not focusing on the outline step is the exact opposite of writing advice I'd heard. If you found flaws or issues with your story in the outline, they aint magically going away in the next step.

Outlines are the most important part of the process and where the most time should be spent. Writing dialogue is fun, writing outlines is not, so people have a tendency to place less of an importance on it. But outlines are homework, medicine, whatever "terrible but necessary" analogy you want to use.

And when I say outline, I mean a complete breakdown. Page 1, then write out everything that needs to happen on page 1. Page 2, do the same. On and on and on until your story is done.

So, I'm telling you to worry about your outline, make it perfect. Because once you have everything figured out, a start to finish, air tight story in excruciatingly detailed outline form, the rest is easy. Now you get to do the dialogue fun part.

If you are struggling now on the script, it's because your worries at the previous stage have came true! Especially if you are worried about your dialogue being long winded or the story beats not coming up soon enough, that shouldn't be an issue - You should be able to look at your outline covered in blood, sweat and tears and KNOW you are being long winded on page 2 because the aliens are crash landing on page 4 so the president's phone call to his wife in the hospital has to be over by page 3.

Go back and make your outline perfect. Your friends might be referring to the "just get draft 1 done" theory. That involves just finishing the draft at all costs so you can go back over and over and over and by draft 10 you are good to go. But focusing on the outline means far less future revisions to arrive at the same point. Neither method is wrong but If you are stressing this early in your script, it sounds like the outline method would be more your speed.
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Old 07-01-2019, 03:54 PM   #5
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I receive a lot of scripts that are "long-winded". My advice is, rough out the page with thumbnails and have the dialogue in the panels. Move them around and change them until a flow/momentum is established that you like. Sometimes you can't see the pointless dialogue until you see the whole page.

Also keep in mind that one rule of thumb in comics is to have a small cliffhanger on the bottom of the odd pages with revealing info coming on the top of the even page (because you typical have to flip the page to see what happens as page 1 starts on the right). This helps too, to establish a flow. Or to conceptualize a pacing for your story.
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Old 07-01-2019, 06:02 PM   #6
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If it is melodrama it is not OK to be meandering and mushy on the beats. You must be more on the mark with the outwardly slow parts or they turn into total mush and you lose the focus.
In music when the music is slow the musician must keep a quick tempo in the feeling or it will just be drab and boring.
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Old 07-04-2019, 03:43 AM   #7
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What I find myself doing lately is I write out the conversation without worrying about what is said in what panel or on what page. I just dump it all out in a microsoft word document. Then I edit it, let it sit for several hours, come back and edit it again. Go to sleep, wake up, come back, and edit it again, distilling only the things I feel are most important and getting rid of any glut. Let it sit, come back, edit again. Reword things to make them read easier. Let it sit, edit again. Sometimes I might let things sit for a day or longer, and then come back and edit again.

I repeat this process until I'm satisfied, and I'm satisfied when I can't find anything left to edit or change. The whole time I'm writing, I'm imagining the exchange as a little video playing in my head, or sometimes even as still frames. I eventually start assigning certain things to pages and panels, and decide exactly where I want what.

I think that if you don't know how to identify the most necessary beats of your conversation and aren't sure what to keep and what to cut, to the point where it's more or less debilitated your progress, you don't know your story well enough and exactly what you want to convey, how, and when, and should probably think about it more.

It may help you to think about it page by page. Another method is assigning certain things to happen on certain pages before I ever put down the dialogue or arrange any of the panels. That helps me organize the content and move things along.

I'll have something like this written out in a word document:

Page 1: Air battle.

Page 2: The fight goes to the ground.

Page 3: Retreat.

Page 4: Pursuit.

Page 5: Surrender.

Page 6: Aftermath

Even before I input any text, I know I want those beats to happen on those specific pages. For me, I make it so that every page has a different big beat, even if it's one conversation. It keeps the story moving. Even if it's action. Using my example above, I'm not going to have the "Surrender" go on for more than one page. I'm going to move things along and get to the next beat by the next page.
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