Graphic novels & screenplays

Because I don’t expect everybody to read my comments on this or other blogs, I thought I’d do a specific post on the different sorts of writing I’ve tackled through the years. First the difference between novel, illustrated novel and graphic novel, as I have figured it out on my own.

A novel is, of course, all prose. It can be written in the form of journal, letters, paper article, poems, with single or multiple POV, but it’s all written words. Illustrated novels are by now basically for children. I have an edition of Dumas “Three musketeers” with the original XIX century drawings (same with a couple of Verne‘s books), but that was, indeed XIX century prose. Nowadays only children’s book have drwains inside – few exceptions in the fantasy genre: “The rose of the prophet” trilogy was illustrated by Larry Elmore, but usually it’s just a symbol at the beginning of the chapter. I wish there were more adult illustrated novels, though.

Graphic novels are basically comic books shaped like novels, i.e. with a beginning, a middle and an end. Some have bist in prose (Poison Elves, Strangers in Paradise, my own SKYBAND), others are all drawn in comic book format (Sin City, A distant soil, Alan Moore’s works). The art varies if the author is one (Marjanne Satrapi’s Persepolis, Colleen Doran’s A distant soil) or many (Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore’s works). Some have great art (Strangers in Paradise, A distant soil), others I couldn’t read because I didn’t like the art (Sin City – didn’t like the movie either).

Screenplays are another animal. They might sound like plays, their storiboards might look like comic book frames, but even if Shakespeare is the more adapted playwright of all times and lots of movies comes from comics these days, the term doesn’t change: all are “adapted for the screen” by a screenwriter. Screenwriting should incorporate a dry prose, snappy dialogue and lots of visual action. Forget those Hamletic monologues: they belong to theater. Talking heads aren’t appreciated in movies (nor in comics, actually…). Movies also require a pacing that is not cecessary in plays nor novels. Nor some comic books for that matter: I still remember how they turned the touching beginning of Crying Freeman (a great manga, even if it becomse sort of repetitive after some time – but it does end, unlime most American comics) into a kung-fu movie. Doh.

So, it’s different media and different kinds of writing. I might adapt SKYBAND for the screen some day, will have to chop off the “boring bits” (i.e. character studies – talking heads, haha), but I might do it eventually. In the meantime, hope this was helpful in explaining the main differences between three different kinds of writing.

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  1. I never used to ‘get’ graphic novels but in the last few years I’ve developed a real liking for them. They tell stories in interesting and intriguing ways.


  2. Lua

     /  03/06/2010

    Barb, graphic novels got my attention through you- before I met you I had this silly prejudice that they were specifically for kids and I thought I couldn’t enjoy them but I’ve been paying some attention to graphic novels and beginning to see how wrong I was! They are fun and very intruding.
    I can’t wait for the day I get to read SKYBAND! 🙂


  3. I have yet to ever read a graphic novel. But, based on your post, perhaps I ought to step out of my comfort zone of what I normally read and read something new.


  4. most people think graphic novels and comic books are for children, but they’re not – not all of them (there’s actually a lot of porn/erotic comic books out there).
    Graphic novels are just another way to tell a story in a visual way, where the creator keeps all the rights and the vision isn’t twisted by director/producer/whoever things he can do that to movies! 😉


  5. Thanks for this link, Barb–I’m in awe of your ability to work in so many different mediums. I was a graphic novel fan as a teen (which is many years ago and when the market was relatively new) so I would be very curious to see how the format has changed.


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