Jan 01 2009

Some of the Differences Between Writing Comic Books and Novels

Published by at 3:17 pm under Comic Books,Superhero Novel

  1. Novels are overwhelmingly word-driven.  In contrast, the primary tool of a comic book writer is visual imagery.  Words are a secondary tool to express what can’t be shown visually.  Comic book readers are annoyed by long blocks of text.  As a rule, I’d recommend limiting a page to 175 words of text for an adult audience.
  2. Novels will usually describe the settings and what’s going on in the background at some length.  In comic books, those worldbuilding details are almost purely visual.
  3. Every novel relies on a narrator.  In contrast, virtually every comic book avoids narration and instead tells the story with a combination of action, visual scenery, and dialogue (in roughly that order).   A comic book narrator may offer us little snippets of information like “FIVE MINUTES LATER…” but it’s not very interesting or smooth for him to drop paragraphs of information on us.
  4. Novels are much longer (60,000-80,000 words vs. 2500-5000 and ~300 pages vs. ~24).  As a result, novels tend to focus more on dialogue and low-intensity scenes than action sequences, particularly combat.  A 24 page comic book might spend 10 pages on 2 fights, but a 300 page novel probably wouldn’t come close to 120 pages of fighting or 25 fights.   Having that many fights would get tedious.  Also, novel fight scenes tend to suck.  If readers wanted to see a rolling fight scene, they would go for a comic book or, more likely, an action movie.
  5. Novel readers (particularly adults) tend to expect deeper characterization, fresher characters and more interesting relationships.  Character growth is far more important in a novel than a comic book.  If the main character has not changed or grown in some way over the course of the novel, readers are likely to feel dissatisfied.  In contrast, a character like Superman tends to change very little over the course of a comic book series.

One response so far

One Response to “Some of the Differences Between Writing Comic Books and Novels”

  1. Ragged Boyon 30 Jan 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Well my character will definitely be an exception for number five, I want an interesting character that grows.

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