Every person who wants to, or does, write a comic has the dream of hitting thirty, fifty or even one-hundred issues with their creator-owned comic. Myself included, I won’t bull shit you. However, what is more important than attempting to write the next Savage Dragon, Spawn, 100 Bullets, or Y, The Last Man, is learning how to tell a clear and satisfying story. How do you do that, you ask? Well my way, that works for me, is by writing two-page stories.
Two-page comics has the same skeleton as a comic just on a much smaller scale. Opening panel, a “page-turn” and a conclusion. A one-page comic wouldn’t have a page turn, only a conclusion, which really does not give the full effect of writing a comic. So, yeah, two-page comics are a good way to buckle down and tell a story.
A lot of writers are like children at a buffet. They want to put a lot on their plates but then get slapped with the harsh reality that when you put things on your plate you have to finish them off. If you publicly tell people that you’re comic is going to be a certain amount of issues and you never hit that amount you will be considered a liar or maybe a failure. Either way, that really isn’t the best idea.
Believe it or not, a two-page story is almost always harder than writing a regular twenty-something page comic. The reason for this is because you have to understand your story completely and know how to tell it effectively. I feel that sometimes having to write a complete issue of comic allows you to beat around the bush and explain yourself more thoroughly, so its easier to tell a story. A two-page comic forces you to get in, tell a story, and get out. Every panel in a two-page story means so much more because you have no room to waste space.
After you decide what your two-page comic is going to be about it is time to lay it out (make sure you don’t over do it; keep it it simple). When I write a two-page story I always come up with a panel count. The panel count can change at any moment (usually from deleting panels, not by adding them… don’t add panels to your your initial layout. LESS IS MORE!). You should have an easy to enter start point. In the middle of your panel count be sure to know your page-turn. A page-turn is the last panel on comic page that, in theory, should make the reader want to read the next page. The first panel on the second page should be the reveal of what happened on your page-turn. Then start wrapping up your story in the next few panels. Finally, get to the last panel, which CONCLUDES your story! DO NOT end your two-page comic with a cliffhanger (unless it is part of an ongoing collection of two-page stories). People want a complete ending from quick stories. Give it to them!
Here is one way I would lay out a two-page comic by panels.
PAGE 1-PANEL 1: Stun the reader with some action or intrigue. Jump right into the problem.
PAGE 1-PANEL 2: Show the problem and why it is a problem.
PAGE 1-PANEL 3: Revelation! Main character begin to think of how to solve the problem.
PAGE 1-PANEL 4: Begin solving the problem.
PAGE 1-PANEL 5: Make it look like the problem was solved.
PAGE 1-PANEL 6: (PAGE TURN)- Problem gets worse! Put your main character in danger.
PAGE 2-PANEL 7: Show the danger your character is in.
PAGE 2-PANEL 8: Have your character combat the problem.
PAGE 2-PANEL 9: Main character defeat the problem.
PAGE 2-PANEL 10: Clear and Concise ending. Show the aftermath of solving the problem.
Try out this method above and see how it works for you.
On thing to keep in mind is DO NOT get heavy with dialogue. Keep all the panels to 2-3 word balloons of around 15 words at most. Don’t go more than 25-30 words per panel. Keep your panels clean and let the art do the talking. Shit, don’t be afraid of silent panels either. You can say a lot by saying nothing.
That’s a good note to end on…
Good luck, everyone!