Saturday, October 30, 2010

1.4 One-Shot Structure

Now that we know One-Shots are unique, even from other comic books, we can begin working on one. The first thing we need to know is it can’t be complex. It needs to have just enough characters, a familiar setting, and a simple plot. If this sounds easy, it is. The reason people, even me, failed at making One-Shots in the past is because we never took a hard look at what we were doing. We either had too many characters, an alien setting, or a complex plot.

By starting with less and going from there we’ll be able to monitor what we’re doing, this is where being aware comes in, so for starters our story must fit in the proper amount of pages. The key to the One-Shot is to be able to fit everything in allocated amount of space. Failure to do so will create inconsistency which can lead to frustration and disorganization. Those problems can leave you with a good effort, but poor execution type One-Shot. We want to avoid that altogether and show some consistency in our work. So let’s begin with the page count.


That image represents the page structure we’ll use in making our One-Shot. I’ve found that 16 pages is more than enough to tell a One-Shot about anything. No matter the genre or style. As you can see some of the page numbers are connected together. Those are the pages that will be read together as the reader turns the page, I call them Pagination Areas. Remember that, because that will be one of the key elements in creating our One-Shot. The first and last page are always displayed by themselves no matter how many pages we do. However for now we’ll do 16 pages.


Now that we know how our One-Shot will be read from page to page, we have an idea of what we’ve got to work with. By putting all 16 pages together we have a perfect view of our finished product. I for one like to do this traditionally on a 14x17 inch piece of Bristol Board with the pages measuring 2.5x4 inches. I don’t leave any room for the story or dialog since I don’t know how much room I’d need for those. All dialog is written in a loose leaf notebook. But enough about that, let me explain the Pagination Areas.

The reason all other pages except 1 and 16 are unique is because they are connected in the finished product. Say we want to make a Two-Page-Spread. It will always start on an even page and end on an odd page, no matter how many pages a book is. Like 8 and 9, right in the middle of the One-Shot and a perfect place for a Two-Page-Spread. If you started on an odd page, say page 7, the reader would have to flip the page to see the rest of the image since it would end on page 8. That’s a common mistake for most amateurs, but Pagination Areas don’t just help us with Two-Page-Spreads.

Those Pagination Areas are perfect boundaries for scenes that will take place in our One-Shot. Since we only have 16 pages to work with, we should make sure none of our scenes are more than 4 pages and no less than 2. And that’s not just a 16 page max rule. It’s a rule most people try to follow when making comic books no matter how many pages there are. Why only so many pages per scene you ask? It has to do with two things. The reader’s ability to turn the page and their overall attention.

When a reader turns the page they have one of two things to expect. A continuation of the previous pages or a new scene altogether. If you put a scene change in the middle of a Pagination Area, it could throw the reader off. The reason it does this is because every time a reader turns a page, they get a glimpse of the second page of the next Pagination Area. Say you’re reading a comic book and your on page 2 and 3. You turn the page and the first thing you see is page 5. But you’re not aware of it. It’s mostly a subconscious thing. However we all do it when reading comic books. This is a trick we can use to our advantage that I’ll explain later when we get to the paneling part of this tutorial.

By making our scene changes even so they always end on a page turn we have started using consistency.  We also need to make sure the scenes aren’t more than 4 pages, more consistency.  This is so the reader doesn’t get bored. We could put as much action in a scene as we want too, but if it’s more than 4 pages it’s going to feel stretched out. I’ve read comic books that have had scenes last an entire issue ( Naruto ), and frankly I couldn’t tell you what all happened. I just skipped ahead to where it ended. This is the last thing you want a reader to do, so for safety’s sake, keep your scenes under 4 pages. If a best selling manga can make a reader skip ahead, then an amateur is easy pickings.


Now you could be thinking that isn’t creative. 4 pages max to a scene, 16 pages altogether, don’t start scenes in the middle of a Pagination Area, etc etc. However it’s important. What we’re doing is laying out the One-Shots structure and creating consistency on our end. Without that we could be stuck in the middle of the One-Shot. Or worse, never finish it because “ something didn’t feel right “. This is the most critical part of the process, and if we can’t properly layout 16 pages all at once then we’re not going to finish this at all.



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.

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