Writing a Graphic Novel: Introduction

In 2005 Blake Snyder wrote a book called Save the Cat. The book went on to become one of the best-selling books on screenwriting. No, he didn’t teach what to write. No, there weren’t any details on creating dynamic characters. He did, however, teach structure. A proven system that quickly was adapted by other screenwriters.

Me? In 2005 I was still trying to decide how I was going to build the next Marvel Comics. I had an idea, a general direction for the first comic series. I even had a vague idea of the characters. I wanted to mix Greek mythology with Christian ideologies. I was inspired by X-men, CSI, and Men in Black. However, I realized that I was trying to do in a few years, what took Marvel decades to build.

2008 I deployed to Iraq and a certain celebrity lost her family to a murderer. A light bulb finally hit. I had an idea for a story. Who killed a local celebrity’s family. I had finished Writing for Comics by Peter David. With my inspiration (X-men, CSI, and Men in Black) I started writing my first comic book script. A five-issue mystery revolving around a local celebrity and her family being murdered. I can’t remember how long it took me to write, but eventually I had all five issues done. I tried to structure the script using the Dark Horse format.

I can tell you now, I had no idea what I was doing. I had the elements we are all taught in our middle school and high school English classes. I had exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and the resolution. I had characters that were inspired by another show. However, I didn’t know my ending well. I also didn’t really know how I was going to get to the other four plot elements. I wrote a graphic novel, it was interesting to those who gave it a shot, but other comic book readers didn’t want to read it. The formatting was horrible and at the end of the day, I had no story.

Years later I tried to adapt my graphic novel into a novel. Again, I read many books on writing novels. Again, I produced two novels based on my graphic novel. I had a little more help in plot structure, but I still didn’t’ get it. That was around 2011. Four years later, I was watching a YouTuber who broke down films. In one of his videos on three-act structure, he suggested reading Save the Cat. At first, I ignored the idea. After all, he was analyzing movies and talking to screenwriters. I then decided on a whim to buy the book anyway.

I’m glad I did. You see that moment, when I decided to buy the book. The point of no return, was my catalyst. A plot element we will discuss later, but it’s a crucial point in the first act. Everything I have told you up to this point is my setup. Another beat we will discuss, that takes place before the catalyst. My opening image? Me telling you about my idea. The Theme Stated beat? Well, that’s easy. The theme of my journey is resilience. Never giving up.

Save the Cat was a great red and I took to Blake Snyder’s method. I applied it to my novels. A few years later, Jesssica Brody published her book Save the Cat Writes a Novel.  A great read that helps me write two additional novels. So, why am I still unpublished as of the writing? Simple. I half-assed the training. I skipped over doing the exercises in both books. In other words, I was doing things the wrong way. This is my midpoint beat. From my catalyst and now my midpoint, I was doing things wrong.

So how does my story on becoming a writer end? The Bad Guys Close In beat is where I’m at in life now. My story isn’t over. With rejection letters for the novels, time being sacrificed for relationships and my careers. I made an important decision to attend Full Sail University. This is my Break into Three beat. I now have a Master of Fine Arts and discovered my love for screenwriting, and more importantly how it translates into comic book writing.

The resolution beat? Well, I’m sharing my knowledge. I’m writing my own webcomic and I’m turning my Angel Protocol series into an Illustrated edition, similar to a Japanese Light Novel. I’m refocusing on using Save the Cat to help me rewrite my novel back into comic book form.  This is my hero’s journey and if you want to write a comic, manga, or webcomic. You need a story. You need structure. You need to Save the Cat.

I will be using Save the Cat as I prepare to launch Favor of Athena. Along the way I will analyze other comics, manga, and adaptations to see how Blake’s methodology can be adapted into comic books. After all sequential art is a visual story, no different from movies.

So, if you are ready to join me, allow me to be your sidekick as you start your hero’s journey. Let me help you write your comic. Let me help you save the cat.