When beginning our comic creation journeys we often find ourselves overwhelmed by ideas. We create worlds and universes filled with an abundance of characters. We have a vision for the next great graphic novel with hopes that it will be licensed out into every multi-media avenue and be beloved by many people far and wide for generations to come.
The question then becomes how does one begin on this wondrous adventure? How does a creator distill their thoughts to focus on the first page?
I believe creating a synopsis is a good way to organize your comic idea, especially for large projects. In this video I outline our process for creating one using The Rogue's Disciple, one of Prime Vice Studios own projects in the works.
Prime Vice Comics synopses include:
Always include credits
When beginning any project make sure you take ownership of your work by placing proper credentials. Include your name and contact information so that your work can be traced back to you, and copyright information which includes year of creation and the name of the owner of the work.
The Title: Give your project a name
The title of your project should be something that is memorable, catchy and tells us something about the story. This project is called, The Rogue's Disciple- simple and to the point.
The Logline: What is your story about?
The logline (sometimes written as log line or one liner) is one of the most challenging parts of the synopsis process but is also one of the most crucial. Before diving deep into your projects you will want to make sure you know what your story is about and be able to clearly explain it to anyone (yourself included) in one sentence. The more you focus on creating a good one liner of your story in the beginning, the more frustrations you will save yourself later. Think of it as the compass for your story.
When structuring your sentence try to include irony to make the story more interesting. For The Rogue's Disciple I have come up with two log lines to help me clarify the story. The constant in both is that its a story about a former fighter who seeks a life away from violence but ends up having to deal with the very thing he is trying to get away from. Before getting too far into the graphic novel I'll go back and edit both loglines to create a final one.
The Pitch: The gist of the story.
The pitch is when you elaborate on the Logline. Make it a brief summary (Between a couple of sentences to no more than two paragraphs) of the story similar to what you would read on the back of a book cover or Netflix preview. You may want to mention the main characters, what happens to them and where it takes place. Make it compelling and think about the audience who may find this interesting.
Above, for The Rogue's Disciple, I have jotted 2 pitch drafts. In each draft I explain how this story is about a character named Domino Dominguez who is a barber that used to be a fighter and moves to a small town to settle down and start a new tranquil life. Domino finds trouble from local gym owner Carne Fuerte who wants to give him a hard time.
The Characters:Who is the story about?
When creating your cast of characters you need to define their role (protagonist, antagonist, supporting character), give them a name and a bio of who they are. Make them as believable as possible, give them motives, a backstory and distinguishable traits to personify. Pull from your life, your experiences, and people you've known to make the cast realistic to you and in turn engaging and interesting to others.
Its a good idea to draw from classic archetypes and tropes and to give your characters contrasting character traits- something that they struggle with in the story. For example Domino is violent by nature being a trained human killing machine and now struggles to become a pacifist.
The Summary: Describe the story arc
The last part of the synopsis is the summary. A complete survey useful for outlining the beats of the story, proposing your story to publishers and knowing what happens at macro level of the story. You need to highlight important events, how the story starts, ends and what happens in-between.
For The Rogue's Disciple I have made notes of these major events so that when it comes to scripting I can organize my pages accordingly. As a creator you will want to understand the pace of the story and be able to prioritize sequences of events effectively.
Synopsis is done. Now what?
After completing the synopsis I visualize possible cover ideas (More tips on creating covers in another segment!). Think about a compelling image(s) that will sell the comic to your audience.
When I feel confident and satisfied with the content of the synopsis I begin scripting. This includes the pages, panels, plots, thumbnails, etc.
Working through the creative process of making a synopsis can be grueling but it tests your grit. The world is not in short supply of ideas but if you have a story to tell it's best to make it as impactful and meaningful as possible so that it stands the test of time and is worth your best efforts. Below I have included a template you can download free to work on your own.
I hope this article helps you on your journey to impact the world with your marvelous ideas. Start your comic today with the Comic Draw app.
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Comics in the Classroom: An interview with Elena Costello, M.A.
Prime Vice intends to bring progressive change to the world through the sequential art medium. Our comics aim to entertain but also to enlighten through our unique tales and collaborative efforts.
In 2016, I created the bilingual comic Saint Love City Funk: Boogie Down Blues, the coming of age story of Santos La Cruz a Latinx musician who discovers a magical fairy in his newly acquired guitar. SLCF is one of the few comics that incorporates Spanglish.
In 2017, in partnership with The Sid Foundation organization we created Lung Girl #2. The Sid Foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to raise funds and bring awareness to lung transplant research. Lung Girl was created as a way to teach youth about lung health issues in a fun way.
Elena Costello was kind enough to speak with me about her experience using these comics in her lessons. Ms. Costello is a doctoral student currently working on her PhD at Ohio State University in Hispanic Linguistics and Culture from the Department of Spanish & Portuguese. She is a fellow in Spanish Linguistics and specializes in Health Care Policy.
Ms. Costello is also the Coordinator for the program LASER (Latino and Latin American Space for Enrichment and Research). She is a mentor and academic advisor for high school students through post-doc. She is also involved with IMPACT (Interpreters for the Medical Profession through Advanced Curriculum and Teaching), a special program that helps bilingual high school students become certified medical interpreters and earn college credit. Her dream, inspired from her experience of 10 plus years as a medical interpreter is to set up medical interpretive programs in hospitals that incorporate culturally competent individuals.
Elena please tell a little bit about yourself and what you do.
I was born and raised in Ohio. My mom is from Mexico and my dad is Anglo American. I grew up speaking Spanish and English but I am English dominant.
Growing up I had to deal with discrimination and wanted to help be a part of change. I saw and experienced language discrimination towards my mother in medical scenarios.
Fredrick Aldama (Distinguished Professor and mentor) pushed me to pursue graduate school. In my department, I am the only Latina from Ohio out of 80 students. There are no Latino men.
I manage La Clinica Latina, the The Spanish Language Clinic and as a medical interpreter for 10 + years I worked in the pediatric hospital and specialized in emergency medicine. In working with LASER and IMPACT I saw myself in the students. I want to change what I had gone through. In Ohio schools, bilingual students are considered “high risk.” This includes students in elementary school and up. The Impact program trains qualified bilingual students to be medical interpreters. We help them get certified and also earn college credit. Interestingly enough the credits they earn count for the linguistics department (primarily Spanish/ Portuguese) but in high school it is categorized under ESL. They have to take the ACT college entrance exams and get to learn medical terminology and cultural sensitivity to engage with patients, and medical professionals effectively.
How did you come in contact with Prime Vice Comics?
What prompted you to buy Prime Vice Comics and how were they useful in your classes?
Saint Love City Funk was the only comic that was bilingual. I liked how it played with words. I liked Lung Girl because it was medically related but not too medical and was fun.
In SLCF, the dialogue is not translated word for word so the students were able learn how interpretations are not literal translations. They were able to understand how ideas can be translated and understood in multiple ways. Depending on your heritage, background and experience the content can be interpreted differently. This allowed us to discuss imagery in a multitude of ways. Comics give meaning with imagery because they include more clues in the art.
I loved that the comics had the characters speak naturally and included subtitles but weren’t literal translations. The students loved it. It gave me a tool to use as an alternative to textbooks that is just as effective for teaching. I divided the class into groups of three. One person read Spanish, one English, and one interpreted. They switched roles and they compared and contrasted what they already knew. The comics made it easier to convey ideas than using a textbook.
How has using bilingual comics been beneficial to you and your students.?
Through the writing and its print the comic validated Spanglish. Your comics demonstrate that interpretation is cultural. The way you did bilingualism was special.
In studying comics there is nuance in the imagery that is not expressed in literal words.
With comics there is more to the content than just the words or pictures.
Using your comics helped me show my students that they have more understanding than they realize. The academic environment tends to downplay the gifted abilities of multi-cultural/multi-lingual students. This in turn tends to make them less confident and apprehensive of building on their cultural background proactively. Comics helped give them the tools to speak on these issues.
Thank you Elena for your time and sharing this insightful experience. We hope that more success stories like this continue to surface. How may people connect with you?
Find me on LinkedIn under Elena Costello.
When I first established Prime Vice Studios the initial mission statement was to grow "CROPC." CROPC stands for Chain Reactions of Progressive Change. Ms. Costello's and her student's experience provided confirmation that PVS is living up to its mission. I look forward to continuing to make a positive difference and to connect with others who aim to do the same.
PS. Lung Girl and Saint Love City Funk Comics are available for purchase. Click the buttons below to order your copies today!
Comic Draw has some cool features which makes it special for beginning your comic writing journey.
In the above video I go over how to divide your comic into pages, breakdown the pages into panels and how to go about adding special effects sounds, captions and of course speech bubbles.
What makes the features especially handy is that as all of the script distinctions (SFX, Speech bubbles, and captions) shown along the left of the script make it easy to dissect the script. Also, they are available to instantly drag into your art pages in the lettering mode.
Hope my fellow Comic Drawers out there find this video helpful and look forward to helping creators start their comics today!
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Read about our projects, experiments and the fun things involving sequential art writing and drawing!