Justin and I finished the script for the Great Milkshake Heist and are moving to the storyboard phase. We estimate the book will be about 140 pages when it is translated into comic panels. The process at this point is all about storytelling. How can we write the story so that the reader enjoys it?
The storyboard process is a fun one! We have written the script using Google Docs. So, first, I pull the doc up and using very rough sketches (most of the time nobody can decipher them but me) I sketch out how I can tell the story in the most entertaining way. Using wide shots, close-ups, and mid-shots I decide what the reader needs to see to understand what’s happening, it’s a lot like film-making! I get to decide what shape the comic panels are to best compliment what’s happening. For instance, a really long vertical rectangle might be good for something that needs a little height like someone jumping from a diving board. I have learned that sound effect words are great for slowing the action down. Much of the book is wordless so to keep people from zooming through the pages we use a lot of them.
After the super rough sketches are done and we’re happy with how the story reads I refine the sketches with ink so that a stranger could pick it up and understand the sketches as much as we do. This part of the process is fun for me because the artwork starts to take solid form and resembles how the final artwork will look. I use a lot of reference at this stage. If I’m drawing an old fort bell, I look up an old fort bell. If I am drawing a hand that is making the “SHHH” motion, it’s time to Google “Someone making the SHHHH motion”.
In order to keep the characters consistent I draw character guides for each of them. When I am working on a storyboard panel with that character, my character guide is sitting near me so I can reference how long the character’s arms are, how long their bodies are, what kind of clothes they may be wearing, etc. There’s nothing worse than finishing a bunch of pages and having to go back and add a bowtie, safari hat, or change a t-shirt into a onesie on every single panel. Avoiding revisions like that is easy with character guides.
In the end, my storyboard should reflect the exact experience the reader will have with the book.
Stay tuned as we continue to develop the Great Milkshake Heist, I hope you enjoy these little process tidbits!