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How to Write a Graphic Novel?

For many years, humankind has shared its experience and values through images. The cave paintings of ancient civilizations serve as chronicles of the life and customs of people who leaved on Earth many ages ago. In the twentieth century, during the Great Depression and World War II, people witnessed the rise of comic books. Two great companies, Marvel and DC, created their own universes inhabited by awesome characters. Their comic books and novels emerged into what is now known as graphic novels. In the past decade, such novels became a great part of mainstream culture. Given the great interest in the graphic novel, it is a perfect time to try yourself in producing such a piece. Wondering how to write a graphic novel? If you are creative and hard-working, telling an interesting story won’t be a problem for you. However, if you are lacking sufficient experience in handling such projects, you should take advantage of reading our article as it will provide you with multiple tips and suggestions on creating a good story. Apparently, the very first thing you should learn before you start working is the definition of the graphic novel.

What Is a Graphic Novel?

Most dictionaries define graphic novels as books composed of images and appropriate text. Typically, graphic novels are standalone stories, though they can also be parts of a series. Such a novel resembles a classical one in terms of structure. However, unlike a classic novel, a graphic one is telling the story visually with the help of catchy illustrations. This makes a graphic story longer and much more substantive compared to a comic book. In a nutshell, the latter is just a serialized piece from a larger narrative.

Key Features of a Graphic Novel

As for the main characteristics of a graphic novel, it should be noticed that they are mostly the same as a traditional text-based novel. Thus, a graphic novel:

  • Is a complete story. This means that it should have a beginning, main body, and an ending. Typically, it follows the Three Act Structure;
  • Has complex, multilayered characters;
  • Has a clear narrative with underlying subplots;
  • Assumes the development of characters. Main characters usually go through their personal journeys; thus they evolve in time;
  • Contains symbols. Such a novel includes many symbols enforcing the main theme.

The main distinction between a graphic novel and a traditional one is that it allows images to perform the greater part of storytelling. If you check some examples of well-done works, you will see that the dialogue bubbles just help elaborate the story instead of telling it.

Common Types of Graphic Novels

Graphic novels usually discuss serious themes that often resemble the themes that can be found in traditional novels. However, as well as comics, novels can also explore topics that are less serious and serve only for fun. Below, you will find five common types of graphic novels:

  1. Superhero stories. The most popular type tells about unreal situations in which superheroes show their brevity and strengths saving people. Such stories are very popular among children as they teach valuable lessons necessary for their mental growth and self-identification.
  2. Non-superhero stories. Such stories tell about real-life situations and real characters.
  3. Non-fiction. Non-fiction stories are based on real-life events that happen at specific points of the time. In such a story, you are supposed to explore a particular real-life situation you have witnessed and express your opinion about this situation.
  4. Manga. It is a traditional Japanese style of comic, which includes the elements of the Japanese culture.
  5. Personal narrative. It is a novel that aims to describe someone’s life in detail, just like in a memoir or autobiography.
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Comic Book vs Graphic Novel: Is There Any Difference?

To get an answer to this question, you should understand the essence of these works. Now you already know the definition of a graphic novel. As for the comic, it is considered an excerpt from a larger narrative that uses illustrations as the instruments for narration. Most comic books are released on a regular basis in various newspapers and magazines. They are often parts of the long-running stories that can last for many years.

An inexperienced reader cannot understand the difference between graphic novel and comic book, though it is significant. The fans are aware of the characteristic features of both genres. Have a look at some features that make graphic novels differ greatly from comic books:

  • Comic books are usually shorter than graphic stories. In fact, the latter may correlate with traditional novels whereas comic books closely correlate with short stories;
  • Unlike comics, novels contain complete narratives. No matter if it is a separate work or a part of a series, it should tell a story. Comic books, on the contrary, are often pieces of a larger whole;
  • Both graphic novels and comic books tell their readers about complex characters. These characters often have inner conflict and are developed throughout the story;
  • Comics often contain excerpts of serialized narratives. If you haven’t read the previous parts of the comic book, you may find it very difficult to read a separate story. Because of this, a comic book can be sold along with the other parts of the story;
  • Comic books often appear on a weekly or monthly basis, which means that they are produced with greater frequency.

It should be noted that comic-style illustrations are popular in many countries. For instance, Japanese manga and anime are widespread not only in Japan but also worldwide. Whereas anime is similar to American comic books, Manga closely aligns with graphic novels. Also, one can mention Italian comic books that are called fumetti that are translated in many countries.

What You Should Know Before Creating a Graphic Novel?

If you are willing to delve into the world of graphic novels, you should know a few important things, which will economize your time and save you from stress. Some of these things are stylistic whereas others are practical. They are as follows:

  • You need to find a partner. If you can both draw and write, that’s perfect. However, if you can write better than draw, you should find an artist with a similar vision and rely on their talent;
  • You need to develop a compelling storyline. Ideally, you need to develop your story around a three-dimensional character, as well as the world they live in. In such a way, you should follow the patterns of traditional novel writing;
  • You should be creative. Nobody will read your story until its end if it is too boring. Thus, you should know how to create a graphic novel combining narration and dialogues in an engaging way;
  • Use a storyboard. It will help you plot every panel in your graphic novel. It can be either formally drawn on large panels or sketched informally in your notebook.

How to Make a Graphic Novel?

If you have never worked on creating graphic stories, you can use some techniques provided below as they will help you boost your creativity and come up with interesting ideas. Have a closer look at our suggestions:

Brainstorm your ideas

This may seem obvious, but you need to think about the topic to figure out how you want to develop the storyline. Some people prefer using dry erase boards whereas others use notebooks to edit their ideas and create mind maps. Either way, you will be able to refer back to your graphic novel ideas that will help you move in the right direction. Some of the brainstorming methods include the 5 Whys, mind mapping, and backward planning.

Write down the most significant ideas

Storyboards are often used for full-length novels, but they can also be used for graphic novels. This technique will enable you to break down your story into several chapters and develop them one by one. In some cases, you will need to write down the main actions your characters will take, as well as their feelings behind these actions. This strategy will help you visualize your characters, which will greatly benefit the quality of your work.

Outline Your Novel

As well as in academic writing, an outline plays a significant role in the process of writing a graphic novel. Basically, an outline is a list of points that will be introduced in your work put in a logical order. An outline will be very handy when you experience writer’s block. Being one of the best ways to support your future drafts, an outline will help you keep your story focused and well-organized. If you want to change the critical points, that is totally fine. An outline is just your roadmap; thus you can change it anytime the way you want.

Choose the Right Graphic Novel Format and Design

If you are good at both drawing and writing, you can start working on your paper by combining these techniques. However, if you are planning to hire a partner, you can write your story as a script. Then, you will send it to an artist along with your comments or ideas.

Although your script should include precise details, you should not forget to leave room for imagination. Collaboration with a creative artist will help you create a masterpiece that will be engaging and intriguing.

Final Thoughts

All in all, it should be noticed that creating a graphic story usually requires collaborative efforts. If you aren’t multi-talented in coloring, drawing, writing, inking, and other processes, you will need to find a talented person to cooperate with. A fruitful partnership with a talented individual will make your success closer.

When your final draft is ready and you are proud of your work, you need to publish it. We strongly recommend that you consider cooperation with Comix Well Spring as it offers a wide range of choices including high-quality coloring of your cover and interior, as well as many other great benefits that will help you enjoy the partnership with this publishing house.

Now that you know how to write a graphic novel, we want you to remind one last thing: practice makes perfect. We are sure that using our efficient tips you will create a legendary graphic novel.

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