Today I attended a Writing for Comics class taught by the amazing writer Devin Grayson. The class was offered by The Isotope Comic Book Lounge as part of its Isotope University project which offers curriculum that “focuses on practical, real world comics industry knowledge to equip students for success in creating and selling comics.” Grayson’s work includes writing for titles such as Gotham Knights, Catwoman, The Titans, and Black Widow. Her five year run on Nightwing is especially well regarded and is often credited for creating the fan base for the popular character. She is also a novelist, video game scripter, short story and essay writer.
For two hours, Grayson shared her knowledge, including tips on how to connect with your character, keep your story evolving, and what to do when you’re stuck. She started the class by having students identify movie stills with their film terms (as comic book scripts rely on the shot directions of cinema). The Three Act Structure screenwriting model and classic Jungian archetypes were referenced as important writing tools, and Grayson shared common mistakes that writers make in scripts (such as losing track of characters in a scene or making one character cool at the expense of another). She spoke at length about raising the stakes of the story to keep a compelling sense of urgency.
Students engaged in theater exercises and comparison lists to focus on character motivation. Another Pictionary-ish exercise illustrated the grave importance of giving your artist a detailed script because interaction with your artist after turning it in is often impossible.
Grayson answered questions and shared her personal experiences working in the comics industry, good-naturedly and in impartial terms. “I am genuinely optimistic about the future of comics,” she said, “I am confident it is in good hands.”
Many thanks to Devin Grayson for sharing her writerly wisdom and to James Sime and Isotope University for creating the awesome learning environment! I am looking forward to applying the lessons I learned in my own work!