How to Format a Comic Script

Nate Piekos, a prolific letterer and founder of Blambot— which is the site for comic book lettering fonts, put together a really great script formatting tutorial based off a page by Fred Van Lente:

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Notes as follows:

1) A page header with the book title, number and writer’s name.

2) Each new script page should begin on a new document page. And you can’t miss the page number when it’s big and bold. Often, I have to skim through a script to look for a note or direction. Big page numbers help tremendously.

3) Panel numbers almost as bold and clear as the page number.

4) Panel descriptions for the most part don’t have to be that lengthy unless it’s really necessary. The actions of characters should be here, (not in the lettering area; see #6) set direction, and notes to the other members of the creative team if necessary.

5) Also, the digital age has given us the greatest source of reference that comic creators have ever had access to. Links to reference photos should also be included in the panel description.

6) Under each panel description is the lettering area. Everything that needs to be lettered goes here.

7) Each item in the lettering area should be numbered. If the editor is doing lettering placements, these numbers correspond to the placements sent to the letterer.

8) The call-out of each lettering item and any descriptors like these:

CHARACTER (OFF), meaning the character is speaking from off-panel.

CHARACTER (WHISPER), self-explanatory.

CHARACTER (BURST), meaning the dialogue is shouted and should be in a burst balloon.

CHARACTER (WEAK), character’s dialogue should be diminished.

CHARACTER (SINGING), self-explanatory. Usually accompanied by music notes.

9) Like dialogue, captions have their own descriptors:

NARRATION or CAPTION (CHARACTER), self-explanatory. The inner thoughts of a character.

CAPTION (TIME/PLACE), such as, “New York, 2013.”

CAPTION (VOICE OVER), meaning the character is speaking, but is not in the location shown in the current panel.

10) SFX, self-explanatory, “sound effect”.

11) Dialogue should be indented, NOT tabbed over. If you use tabs, the letterer has to run find/replace searches on the document to delete them all before lettering. (To use indents in MS Word, go: Format / Paragraph / Indents & Spacing.) Dialogue should also be written in plain sentence case, not CAPS.

12) Dialogue that should be bold in the comic, should be bold and/or underlined in the script. If you use caps for bold dialogue, the letterer will have to convert it to sentence case before lettering.

13) Non-English dialogue should be italic. Whole blocks of dialogue that are translated into English, should begin with a < and end with a >, and are usually accompanied by a caption explaining what language is being spoken.

If you want to take a look at what the final page came out looking like, plus get additional comments from Nate, head over to Blambot to check out the full article!

Oh, and stay tuned: We’ve got some MAJOR developments coming to the Comic Book Script Archive. MAJOR!

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