I’m trying to write a fantasy graphic novel, in the vein of Nimona or the Amulet series, and I desperately want to use the great advice on Mythcreants to write my story. Oren, I noticed in the FAQ section that you’ve got experience with graphic novels. Do you have any advice? How can I translate much of the helpful content on Mythcreants to a graphic medium? Things like foreshadowing, character development, orchestrating twists, and designing systems are much different when drawn.

– Bunny

Hey Bunny, thanks for writing in.

Most storytelling advice is fairly universal between prose stories and graphic novels. You still want to open with conflict, you still want to create a throughline in the beginning that resolves at the end, you still want to avoid problematic tropes and clichés, etc. Wordcraft advice won’t be as helpful, since you aren’t writing much description or narration, but the dialogue articles are still useful in most cases.

That said, I did learn a few things specific to graphic novels when I was experimenting with the format, and I will pass them on to you.

  • Don’t include what you (or your illustrator) can’t draw. Graphic novels are a visual medium. The only way they can include a six-headed dragon with jet engines for legs is if you can draw it. You know your own skill level, so keep this limit in mind unless you’re deliberately trying to push boundaries.
  • Keep dialogue short and sweet. Loquacious characters can be a problem in prose, too, but in graphic novels they obscure the artwork, which defeats the point. Trim dialogue whenever possible so the reader can get more of your artistic skills.
  • So long as you can draw it, graphic novels are a medium to add novelty in the form of exotic worlds, strange monsters, and unusual characters. It’s one thing to describe an elven city grown from quartz formations, but it’s another thing entirely to see it. So long as your skills are up to the task, you can get a lot of mileage out of setting your story in a truly alien world.
  • Keep the story smaller and simpler. Graphic novels have far less time to tell their story, because drawing a scene is much more labor-intensive than writing one. So unless you have a huge budget and lots of time, it’s best to work at the scale of a short story rather than a novel.
  • On a similar note, keep the number of characters as low as possible. This is already important in prose, but it’s doubly so in graphic novels. Each character makes the story longer, and they’re also more work in and of themselves to draw.

Hope that’s helpful,

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