Thursday 10 December 2020
Writing for Graphic Novels with Steve Carroll
Steve Carroll is a designer, teacher, artist and writer based in Worthing. Steve will be demonstrating how writing for graphic novels is closer to writing plays or screenplays and the differing approaches within the industry.
Steve's ambition as a child was to be a writer and he wrote his first novel aged 12. However, his English teacher at 0-level ridiculed him and he turned to art instead. He studied graphic design at Berkshire College of Art & Design, graduated in 1982 and has worked in graphic design ever since. He continued to draw and paint and still craved to be a writer, with many false starts under his belt. In the late 90s he worked with a well-known sports cartoonist who suggested writing for graphic novels – comics. He considered this a step down from his main ambition, but soon realised what a wonderful world it was. In 2004 he had published the first of his graphic novels “Riddler’s Fayre: The First Matter” – a story based at the time of the Crusades and a comment on the post-9/11 world.
Review of the Meeting
Steve Carroll introduced WSW members to the world of graphic novels. Aged twelve he knew he was a writer, but his GCSE English teacher mocked his work, while an Art teacher was more supportive – Steve began a career in art and design (see his website https://www.stevecarrollssussex.com/ ).
But he carried on writing, and one day a publisher suggested he wrote a graphic novel. He overcame his initial disparaging attitude to the form, and as we learned, Steve’s training meant he is able to appreciate pictures as well as words as means of conveying a story.
He praised Jeff Anderson (website - https://www.jeffandersonillustrator.co.uk/ ) who illustrated Steve’s series Riddler’s Fayre, set after the third crusade and in which Steve drew parallels between the Crusades and the War on Terror. Steve used his own experience to describe the process of writing graphic novels, which he said was akin to writing a screen play.
At first Steve sketched what he thought would go in each panel, to guide the illustrator.
Now he prefers to story board: he prepares a full script, then gives notes for each frame -a description of what should be in it, name of a character, speech for a bubble. Steve feels he can be more involved with a character this way.
He also mentioned a Plot First method, as used by Stan Lee (Marvel Comics). Lee wrote a synopsis and gave it to the artist, then wrote dialogue to match what the artist produced. This method had led to some dispute over who was the progenitor of a story.
Steve spoke about the development of the modern graphic novel genre. Although they were initially dismissed as ‘mere comics’ and ‘picture stories’, when work such as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman won major novel prizes the critics reassessed the form. And rules in some competitions changed.