A reader told me the other day he was having trouble making transitions happen in Comic Book scripting. The good thing about comic books — or any writing is that when you have two panels…or two paragraphs side by side…even when obviously unconnected, the very fact that they are there connects them. Sometimes this can be very abrupt with no transition at all. Or… for most cases This can be a bit more subtle. Here is a couple of tricks.
Let’s say you have a few disconnected thoughts.
“I’m going to the store.”
“Zombies ate my parents.”
“My car needs gas.”
Just by putting these words together, you are forming a pretty cool story set for adventurours fun.
Transitions MAY NOT be needed. You can put them all in one panel.
PANEL ONE: PERSON FRANTICALLY TRYING TO START CAR. ZOMBIES COMING UP FROM BEHIND IN THE REAR WINDOW.
SFX: Rvvvv- Rvvvvvv – Rvvvv- (car not starting)
CAPTION: I’m going to the store. Zombies ate my parents. My car needs gas.
Transition of panels can take place with ONE SIMPLE word.
PANEL ONE: GOING INTO THE STORE, TALKING ON PHONE
Word Ballon from phone: HELP!
CAPTION: While going to the store, Zombies ate my parents.
PANEL TWO: COMING OUT OF THE STORE WITH SOME NITROUS OXIDE.
CAPTION: My car needs gas!
Transition panels can take place with a phrase of words to add CLARITY to the story.
PANEL ONE: WALKING INTO A GUN SHOP.
CAPTION:”I’m going to the store to get some guns.”
PANEL TWO: PICKING UP SOME GUNS AND LOOKING AT THEM.
CAPTION: “Zombies ate my parents a while, back.
PANEL THREE: PAYING THE CASHIER FOR THE GUNS.
CAPTION: “Now I’m seeking revenge.”
PANEL FOUR: PUTTING THE GUNS IN THE GUNRACK. WET SPOT COMING UNDER THE CAR
PANEL FOUR: LOOKING UNDER THE CAR TO SEE A CUT FUEL LINE.
CAPTION: “Unfortunately, my car needs gas.”
Transition panels can be used to add TIME to a scene.
PANEL ONE: PERSON RUNNING DOWN THE SIDEWALK. FRIEND IS WASHING THE CAR CALLING OUT TO HIM AS HE APPROACHES.
PERSON 1: “Where are you going in such a hurry?”
PERSON 2: “I’m going to the store.”
PANEL TWO: OUR RUNNER MOVES PAST THE CAR. LOOKING OVER HIS SHOULDER, YELLS BACK. PERSON ONE TURNS HEAD TO WATCH HIM RUN PAST.
PERSON 1: “Why is that?”
PERSON 2: “Zombies ate my parents, and I am out of gas.”
PANEL THREE: PERSON 1 TURNS BACK TO WASHING HIS CAR. ZOMBIES ARE CRAWLING OVER THE CAR. ONE GRABS THE HOSE AS IT DROPS.
PERSON ONE: AAaaaaagh.
PANEL FOUR: PAN OUT. 100s OF ZOMBIES COMING DOWN THE STREET.
PANEL FIVE: PAN OUT MORE. 1000s OF ZOMBIES OVERTAKING THE CITY.
The key to transitions in a comic book script is a simple 3 step series.
1. Know where the story is.
2. Know where the story is going.
3. If there is a gap, in storytelling, the transitional element helps you cross the gap.
In Review, the transitional element in a comic book can be:
panels and/or phrases to add clarity to the story.
panels and/or phrases to add time to the story.
Generally, I wouldn’t worry about writing transitions too much as this is more of a “fine tuning” exercise. You can take care of this at the end if you need to. Generally, a good artist will be able to help you add a transitional panel if something needs to be added to allow some clarity. The two of you working together, makes for a pretty good editor.
A good resource to look further into how transitions effect panesl would be Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics.