Wednesday, July 13, 2016

WRITING MANGA AND COMICS--EVEN IF YOU DON'T DRAW (GUEST POST BY DANICA DAVIDSON)



            When I tell people I have a manga book out and a Barbie comic book coming out, the response is usually the same, “Oh, so you draw!”
            To which I have to explain with embarrassment, “No, I don’t.”
            This is usually followed by confusion, but I’m not in a rare situation. Many times when there are books that involve pictures, one person writes and another person draws. That’s true when it comes to manga and comic books.
           
I read comics as a kid, and when I was a teen, I READ them voraciously, especially manga (Japanese comics). From there I started writing about manga for places like MTV, CNN, The Onion, Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and for a while I adapted manga into English for an American publishing company. This background allowed me to sell my first book, Manga Art for Beginners, even though I’m not an artist.
            Here’s how it worked: I sent in a proposal of all the chapters of the book. Because it’s a how-to-draw book, I have it start with basics. Readers learn how to draw eyes, faces and bodies first. Then I move onto common manga character types, like ninja or butlers. I wrote out the book so that it would be very detailed, showing twelve or so steps for each character. This came out of my frustration with other how-to-draw books showing only three or so steps.
            Melanie Westin, the artist I worked with, drew to match what I’d written. We’d talk on the phone maybe once a week and email back and forth with the drawings. After Melanie sent me her drawings, I added more writing, detailing each step as I saw Melanie draw them.
           
The Barbie comic book was a different experience. I queried multiple comic book publishers and Papercutz, which does comic books for kids, wrote back to me. They were working on Barbie titles, so I pitched a story where Barbie, her sisters and their new puppies throw a party to find homes for the local shelter pets. My pitch was approved by both Papercutz and Mattel.
            Then I wrote a script for it. Comic book scripts general go something like this: You number the page and the panel, then give people lines and describe the action. For instance, you say, “Page 1, Panel 1.” Then you said “BARBIE:...” (or whomever) and put in what she’s saying. Then you give a description of what’s happening in the panel. Next, you would say, “Panel 2" and continue. Page 2 will start with, “Page 2, Panel 1.”
            With the manga book, I worked closely with the artist. With Barbie, Papercutz chose the artist they wanted and the editor has been the go-between for the artist and me. I’ve seen some of the panels, and they look beautiful! Barbie: Puppy Party will be released in September.
           
I also write books that are purely prose. My Overworld Adventures series is known as “books for Minecrafters” because the main character, Stevie, is an eleven-year-old boy living in the Minecraft world who finds a portal to Earth. They books are aimed for middle grade readers, and four books have been released so far: Escape from the Overworld, Attack on the Overworld, The Rise of Herobrine and Down into the Nether. The final two books in the series, The Armies of Herobrine and Battle with the Wither, will be released in September and October, respectively. People also sometimes assume that because of my work in manga and comic books, The Overworld Adventures are illustrated, too, but that’s not the case. For this series, it’s just me writing! If you’re a writer and not an artist, it doesn’t mean you have to stick to just prose writing . . . there are opportunities for you to work with an artist as well!

Twitter: @DanicaDavidson

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