Storyboarding your narrative

Totally not a spoiler…I removed the dialog at least 🙂

As with many things creative, there’s a lot of ways to storyboard your idea. I am by no means prescribing how storyboarding should be done, only that I use storyboarding as a tool to develop my narrative at the visual level.

One thing that’s helpful to understand is that the act of script writing and storyboarding is pretty fluid and they lend themselves to one another. In fact, I believe that a healthy back and forth between the two is very necessary in order to convey the right tone, idea, and visuals. For example, I wrote my script with a visual in mind and added cues in my writing where I felt necessary, but once it goes into a quick sketch, there are things you can absolutely convey without text, and vise versa there’s some antecedents that require more context from the writing side of things as well. Storyboarding absolutely helps with sussing out the type of narrative you desire, so it’s important to be flexible and let the process flow.

Use a script to guide your visual narrative
I write out my scripts like scenes where I have both dialog and non-dialog displayed, and I experimented with various layouts before I ended up with the below script template example. This is what works for me:

The above is a 1:1 screenshot of how this appears in my docs file


[I use this as a way to convey action, scene, setting, or anything else that might be non-dialog. There’s unlimited ways to write and layout a script so try different things to see what works.]

Character A: “Hopefully this helps with ideas for how to layout a script.”

[I use this as a way to indicate some sort of action or non-dialog.]

Character B: “Do what’s comfortable and works for you.”

Character A: (smiles) “Couldn’t have said it better myself!”

Don’t worry too much about the fidelity
Your storyboards don’t have to be perfect, in fact it’s better if they’re not so you can make adjustments without a lot of revision work. Think of your storyboard like a rough outline of your graphic novel. Each moment conveyed should take small strides in telling your story. Your storyboard overall is meant to save you time, so once you get to the illustration, coloring, and lettering portion of the process, you’re a little bit more foolproof when it comes to revisions, which can take a lot of time and that’s what we’re trying to save by adding this to our process. In the image below I’m using the webtoon scroll format because I think it lends itself beautifully to the handheld device medium.

How a webtoon format would display on a device, far right image shows the storyboard unsliced

You want to convey just enough information in your sketches so that if a stranger were to pick up your storyboard and read it, they’d know exactly what’s going on with no context whatsoever. Your storyboard is also going to fill gaps for you and let you know if you’ve left out any important details in your narrative.

It’s ok to take shortcuts
Making a comic is a huge time investment, so creators are always looking for ways to optimize the process. I use acon3d for things like settings and backgrounds and view the models in Sketchup. Though it’s best to take this into account when you’re storyboarding so you can grab the models and angles that best fit your workflow.

Ask for feedback and revise as necessary
A storyboard will allow you to look at things holistically, which is a beautiful aspect of adding this to your process. Also, don’t be afraid to share with friends and ask for feedback in areas you feel might need more attention. I love getting detailed and actionable feedback:

She’s not wrong.

Good luck with your storyboarding process!

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