The first thing anyone just starting out has to know before they do anything at all, is that One-Shots are written differently from other mediums. Some people will say they’re like movies, TV shows, or novels. But they aren’t. I’ve read enough comic books to know that there is a certain pattern to how each story is told, whether it be in multiple comic book issues or chapters of a manga. They all follow a smooth and more direct line compared to anything else. In other words they’re simple.
If you wanted to compare a One-Shot to, let’s say for example, a TV show. Then the One-Shot is the pilot episode before it goes to series. The audience views a problem, is introduced to the characters, the characters try to solve a problem, the story climaxes, and it ends with a resolution. It’s all about proportions. Technically a One-Shot ends up way shorter than any TV show pilot, however they both share the same proportions in their structure. What we’ll learn here is how to properly place those proportions with in the pages we have to work with. Just like using heads to measure out a body when drawing a person.
Another difference between the two mediums is a TV Show can be pretty complex and still fit with in its limited run time. A One-Shot cannot. The more complex a story is, the more pages and panels it will take to tell it. By complex I mean it all comes down to the amount of characters involved, dialog used, actions taking place, and even in describing the setting. These things all play an important role in proportioning a One-Shot. The less complex those things are, the less complex our One-Shot will be, and the better chance we’ll have at fitting our story with in our given page amount.
Our page amount is essentially our timeline to tell our story. We don’t want to go over or under the number of pages we’ll have work with. We want to finish every One-Shot on the same page every time we make one. This will require us to know where to put each section of our One-Shot, how to properly panel those sections, and what to keep and what to throw away. That’s the key to making a readable One-Shot. Knowing what’s important and what isn’t so everything fits with in the pages we are given.
Also a One-Shot needs to be self contained to give people a feeling for the story, characters, and setting we‘re introducing to them. If it’s successful, we can expand from that One-Shot and make it as complex as we want to. The reason a One-Shot needs to be a complete package with everything resolved at the end is so the reader is left satisfied. No matter if they liked it or not, keeping it in a self contained state lets them analyze what they just read without any lingering doubt. Such as an issue that wasn‘t resolved or a cliffhanger ending. Those two things can add a negative effect on the reader if our One-Shot wasn’t that good. If we eliminate those things, even a bad One-Shot can spark some positive feedback for us to take with us on the next One-Shot we make.
And that’s what a One-Shot is at it’s core, a learning experience. As creators we don’t know what the audience wants, so we test the waters with a One-Shot. Our first one might fail. Maybe even the next ten that follow, but from each failure we learn from our mistakes and try not to repeat them in the next one we make. When everything clicks and we finally have something the public wants, we can do more of it. But to get to that level we need to be consistent, aware, and practice making One-Shots to prepare us for something bigger. The first step in that is to learn the structure of the One-Shot.
This is an esential read. Also be sure to check out Scott's website to explore other ideas and exercises. Like the 24 hour comic.
Even if you prefer manga, this book is old school. It's full of the basics to get the ball rolling.
Even more old school. This is a must have book to learn how to create Sequential Art. Even the pros use this book.
There are a ton of How to Draw Manga Books, but this one is the complete package. It covers everything one will need to know to get started. Highly recommended.