SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

Stats on GN page/panel content

Discussion started on

In expanding into GN writing, I started small by adapting a 14-page screenplay short into GN script format.

In contrast to screenplays, GN stories are broken down per-page instead of per-scene. Shots and angles map into page panels, and narration and voice-overs into captions. Sound effects (SFX) are formatted as dialogue, and actual dialogue may be spoken by characters in-panel or out-panel (O.P.). GN scripts are thus akin to movie shooting scripts.

First off is what happened to the page count: a 14pp screenplay swelled into a GN of first 28pp then 48pp. Quite the expansion!

More intriguing were the ratios of panels/page compared to dialogues/page. Turns out that, for the 15-page samplings of published GNs that I analyzed, the ratios are about equal, with large variances in panel and dialogue count among pages

Sandman vol 1: 4.7±3.6 panels/page (78% variance) vs. 4.5±6.3 dialogues/page.
Sandman vol 8: 6.2±2.1 panels/page (34% variance) vs. 6.5±6.8 dialogues/page;
Note that, over the series, pages become visually more crowded and less varied in complexity, while characters become more talkative overall.

Elfquest book 1: 5.1±2.4 panels/page (48% variance) vs. 5.0±5.7 dialogues/page
Elfquest book 8: 5.1±2.4 panels/page (47% variance) vs. 8.1±4.8 dialogues/page
Note that, over the series, page visual complexity stays exactly the same, while characters become borderline prolix.

Bone Ch7: 5.2±1.7 panels/page (33% variance) vs. 6.1±6.5 dialogues/page.
Bone mostly uses a 2x3-panel format, with relatively few exceptions, hence the lower panels/page variance.
The characters like to talk a lot, too, but sometimes not at all on a given page.

I analyzed several other GNs, with much the same results.

Okay, thought I, time to plug my 28pp GN draft into the same rigorous analysis. The results were eye-opening.

Thingamajigs v 011: 6.4±1.2 panels/page (19% variance) vs. 4.4±2.9 dialogues/page.
This told me that the draft provided little panel variation page-to-page, with characters delivering similar quantities of dialogue/page.
Story aside, such lack of visual and dramatic texture = BORING.

After studying from the masters about how panels are apportioned according to drama and action, I tried again, with a net page count upped to 48.

Thingamajigs v 018: 4.2±2.3 panels/page (54% variance)  vs. 3.0±3.3 dialogues/page.
Much improved! Pages and dialogue vary much more. My characters ended up talking/singing more, albeit less on average per page, but the variance is greater and therefore better.

Also, marketability: a 48-page GN is more likely to be picked up than a 28-pager.

Anyway, studying how "the pros" write and illustrate GN is worthwhile, even if one does not use a spreadsheet and statistics to evaluate how one's own works stack up.

#1 - November 22, 2021, 07:52 PM
« Last Edit: November 22, 2021, 08:12 PM by A. S. Templeton »
Persist! Craft improves with every draft.

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • **
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region iowa
Interesting breakdown, A.S.   :thankyou
#2 - November 22, 2021, 10:29 PM
Learning to Swear in America (Bloomsbury, July 2016)
What Goes Up (Bloomsbury, 2017)
The Constitution Decoded (Workman, 2020)
Twitter: KatieWritesBks

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region longislandny
That is really cool to think about. I think varying the panels and amount of dialog vs narration is key. Also, that pages can be fully wordless is a thing.

For kids, audience also matters. Too much text per page will seem overwhelming to a young reader.

I'm curious as to whether these are really novels or "comic-style picture books." Twenty-eight pages is classic PB length, and forty-eight is short for a MG novel. We need a clearer term: graphic picture book?
#3 - November 23, 2021, 06:46 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
Twitter: @dvilardi1

I'm curious as to whether these are really novels or "comic-style picture books."
Good point. The published GNs that I analyzed were (and still would be) found on the adult GN shelf. The MC in my Thingamajigs GN is 9 years old, with dialogue vocabulary drawn from that of 120 years back--a bit quaint, but still accessible by today's kids.

Manga and classic action comix tend to rely heavily on visualized sound effects; adult-market GNs with literary pretensions, not so much. I try to keep SFX to a minimum.

Still, much depends on how much "production value" the artist adds when interpreting the script, informed by market standards. Appropriately simplifying the artwork while keeping the emotional core of the characters' expressions must be a tough balancing act in kidlit illustration, from PB through GN. Too, less detail = faster = cheaper to produce.
#4 - November 23, 2021, 11:43 PM
Persist! Craft improves with every draft.

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region longislandny
A 9 year old says chapter book to me. Think about your reader age.

(Btw, I've done a graphic novel as work-for-hire. The publisher considers it that, but the page count is PB length. The thing is it has a lot more images than a traditional PB. I can't say more until it comes out. There are PBs in this style from quite a way back though. Look at the work of James Stevenson. We love him in our house---my kids are now 16 and 20.)
#5 - November 24, 2021, 06:27 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
Twitter: @dvilardi1

A 9 year old says chapter book to me. Think about your reader age.
I always do; nevertheless, comics and graphic novels are, as they used to say, "Where it's at."

As always in GN-land, it is up to the artist to lay out the artwork and speech bubbles (and captions, if any) such that the narrative flows smoothly, with the least amount of ambiguity as to successive action and dialogue such that even younger readers can keep up. I once read a poorly laid-out GN wherein the artist added ARROWS to forcibly direct the reader's attention to the desired next frame!

Oz: The Complete Collection (Young & Shanower) is a splendid example of a reimagined classic in GN presentation with appeal far beyond the under-9 set. That, like Ender's Game (which has been GNed) and the entire Harry Potter book series (not yet), bugsplats the zombie truism that readers can identify only with like-age protagonists.
#6 - November 24, 2021, 07:01 PM
Persist! Craft improves with every draft.

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region longislandny
The Oz books were written for adults, so they may be ageless. They originals are not for the under 9 set. They are middle grade at the youngest today. 

I had to separate the text into images and give image notes for the book I wrote along with writing dialog in script format. I think this is usually the case with GN scripts, so it isn't up to the artist to do layout necessarily. I had 2-3 images per page, usually 5 or 6 per spread.
#7 - November 25, 2021, 06:34 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
Twitter: @dvilardi1

The Oz books were written for adults...
What a curious opinion... one contradicted by the author himself. From the introduction to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (emphasis added):

[The] modern child seeks only entertainment in its wonder tales and gladly dispenses with all disagreeable incident.... Having this thought in mind, the story of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was written solely to please children of today. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out.

L. Frank Baum
Chicago, April, 1900.

The large type, 200-220 words/page, and copious illustrations of the Denslow-artwork edition together suggest that Baum clearly meant TWWoO to be read aloud side by side to the tykes and self-read by the older set.
#8 - November 25, 2021, 07:13 PM
Persist! Craft improves with every draft.

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region canadaeast
I don't know about the Oz series but Ender's Game was definitely written for adults. The sequel (which is awful) is all about politics. Books 3 and 4 are better, but not enough to get me to read the Ender's Shadow series.

The Wheel of Time also transitioned into GNs (moving from adult shelves to YA). It too gets into politics and quite violent themes later. Given the size of those tomes, it wasn't a surprise the GNs for book1 had to be delivered in multiple parts.
#9 - November 25, 2021, 08:27 PM

I don't know about the Oz series but Ender's Game was definitely written for adults.
Can't disagree, but again, Ender's Game demonstrates that a juvenile MC--starting at the tender age of six!--can carry the main narrative, without the story being written for kindergartners or even preschoolers.

The argument that a nine-year-old MC automatically makes a story MG or even chapter book is, simply put, rubbish.
#10 - November 25, 2021, 09:12 PM
Persist! Craft improves with every draft.

Reader, reader, reader...
Administrator
Poster Plus
  • ****
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region rmc
I read Ender's Game (and all the *sequels) when I was in my 20s. But my son read EG when he was 12 and really enjoyed it. In fact, it was assigned reading for the regular-track 8th graders at his middle school (he read Zoe's War in his honors English class). He didn't read the sequels until last year (at 19), though. He seemed to like them okay -- but if I put them in order of my favorites, they'd go: Xenocide, Speaker for the Dead, Ender's Game, and then way down the list, Children of the Mind. And I read the first Shadow book but didn't enjoy it enough to read any of the others.

Just commented to illustrate yet again how different books appeal to each of us differently. :grin3
#11 - November 25, 2021, 11:03 PM
Robin
Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BSR6CPJ/
Website: www.robinprehn3r.com

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region longislandny
It's more that there was no children's publishing industry per se back when Oz was written. I look at Alice in Wonderland the same way. We know these older books are stories originally told to children, but I don't know that marketing was done toward them until later on.

There have always been books for adults written with child protagonists. This is considered fine and normal in the industry. But the general feeling is that kids like to read about people their own age or older. Eight year olds simply don't want to be perceived as babies by reading about babies (anyone younger than they are). Because this is a business, it almost doesn't matter if the convention is true as long as publishers believe it is.

With older books like these, there's always a question as to whether a gatekeeper would publish it today. But their popularity makes them fodder for other formats. (And being in the public domain and therefore free to work with certainly helps for those works this applies to.)
#12 - November 26, 2021, 06:22 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
Twitter: @dvilardi1

Members:

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.