Bitch Planet #3 & #6 – Kelly Sue DeConnick

Hi all,

Yes. It’s been a minute. BUT, we’re back with a stellar addition to the Comic Book Script Archive, and it’s from a writer a number of you have asked about in the past: Kelly Sue DeConnick.

Obviously, Kelly Sue has been a juggernaut in the comic book landscape for the past few years, between Marvel and Image work, her name appears more or less daily on comic industry news sites. But funny enough, when I think of her, I think of her schedule of all things. Back in the hay-day of the Bendis Boards, Kelly Sue (along with a number of other writers, such as Matt Fraction, Warren Ellis, B. Clay Moore, and others) would host Q&A threads for us aspiring types. In one of those threads, the topics of writing hours came up– and seriously, Kelly Sue’s dropped me to the floor. Sadly, the Board isn’t archived any longer, but the gist of it was detailed in a great Vanity Fair article:

DeConnick keeps a punishing daily schedule: up at 3 A.M., writing until 5:30 A.M., mom duty until the kids leave for school, back to writing until 4 P.M., then, when the kids come from school, it’s dinner, homework, violin lessons, and family time. She’s in bed by eight P.M.

(The whole piece is great as well, highly recommend you give it a read.)

I think about it when I’m pushing a late night working on my own stuff. I mean, I’m on the opposite end of the day, but when I get that “I’ll just brush it off until tomorrow” feeling, I think about Kelly Sue waking up at 3am to write. Because sometimes, that’s what it takes to juggle all the stuff in your life. She goes into more detail on that schedule in a blog post here, and honestly, as someone that has a pretty screwed up work/life balance (and I think most of you reading this will relate) this post is like an hour’s worth of therapy. Or at least mutual grousing.

I also love the fact that Kelly Sue is a process junkie. One of the cooler bits of writing advice that I’ve seen, and one that I don’t see often enough, is from a talk she gave where she discusses how to read a comic critically. To write, you need to read– and hell, I don’t think I ever see anyone giving advice on how to read. Here’s some bullet points from that talk, written by glamorousgamine on tumblr.

How to Read a Comic Critically

  • On the first read-through, just have fun. You may notice certain things that catch your attention, but just have fun.
  • Go through and count panels. Panel count per page varies with whether it’s exposition or action and on the artist. Current industry standard is 5-6 panels at Marvel and 4-5 panels for DC. Figure out average panel counts. Compare average panel counts between writers and artists.
  • Ed Brubaker’s tip for action scenes: 3 panels with insets for detail like a fist connecting with someone’s jaw.
  • Warren Ellis’s tip for action scenes: “Call your shots.“ If a vase is going to be smashed against someone’s head, show the vase in a panel before it’s used. If a gunfight is about to happen, zoom in on the fighters taking out their guns.
  • Look at size of word balloons. The following three bullets are general guidelines and can be broken.
    • Max of 210 words per page (Moore)
    • Max of 3 lines per balloon (Brubaker)
    • Max of 3 balloons per panel (Ellis)
  • What looks good to you? What feels right to you?
  • Balloons affect tracking. Where you have the most text is where the reader’s eyes will stay the longest, so make sure there’s something interesting going on there.
  • Show, don’t tell. Do not write what can be drawn.
  • Do not tell the readers what they see. If the art shows the heroes riding across the prairie, do not say in the caption box, “Our heroes rode across the prairie.”
  • Do as little handholding as possible with transitions. Give enough for clarity, but not so much that it’s redundant.
  • Read David Mamet’s book on filmmaking.
  • Take note of repeated themes in other writers’ work. Neil Gaiman often goes Meta and explores the very act of storytelling. Warren Ellis talks about technology and optimism in spite of or even with human failings. This repeated theme is Truth.

Of particular notice to me are the opening pages of both scripts, in which Kelly Sue address the artists of each book. Chances are, you’ve probably discussed your book with your artist via email/skype (or if you’re lucky, in person!)– but I really like this approach of beginning with a “welcome letter” to your script. If nothing more than to get everyone on the same page…pun intended.

A very, very, very, special thanks to Comics Experience (partner of The Comic Book Script Archive) ‘s Nicole Boose for these scripts!!

You can follow Kelly Sue DeConnick on Twitter @kellysue
And I highly recommend signing up for the Milkfed Criminals newsletter here: http://milkfed.us— it’s a cool little read that pops up pseudo-weekly in your inbox and makes for a fun little mobile distraction while you’re on a lunch break.

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