48 Page Graphic Novel Worksheet

48 page One-Shot/Graphic Novel Worksheet by Aaron Bredemann
This is a revised study of my 16 page One-Shot Structure tutorial which can be found here
This 48 page Graphic Novel structure allows the author to make more detailed stories and use more characters. It follows the same rules I outlined on the 16 page tutorial and just like that tutorial it isn’t limited by those rules. Everything presented here is up for interpretation.
The purpose of this Worksheet is to outline a set of rules for those who want consistency and proper planning in the creation process. This is not bound by any style or genre. All comic books across the world share the same backbone in the creation process, and my process is my own personal insight on what that backbone is.
Throughout this Worksheet I’ll be using terms I’ve come up with to describe different parts of the Graphic Novel. I will have short descriptions of them here, but they are described in more detail at my Blog. All the information here is free use. I do not ask for credit, however I will give credit to those who’ve helped me come up with this process ( even though they don’t know it )
How to Draw Manga Vol 2 Compiling Techniques - Graphic-Sha Publishing
How to Draw the Marvel Way - Stan Lee and John Buscema
Comics & Sequential Art- Will Eisner
Siva Sernvongat- Original inspiration to do this.
Dictionary of Terms
Scene- A scene is a sequence of pages that makes up a section of the story. It will be identified by the different sections which will be labeled as one of the following; Main Introduction, Main Complication/Problem, Main Solution, Goal Solution, Goal Climax, Main Climax, and Ending.
Pagination- The sequential numbers given to pages in a book or document. The 48 pages in this Worksheet are the Pagination.
Pagination Area- This is a term I made up to describe all the pages in the Graphic Novel that are connected to each other except for the first and last page which are by themselves. Pagination Areas make up every 2 pages between the first and last page. They always start on an even number ( 2-3, 20-21, 36-37 ) The Pagination Area is used to determine the length of each scene.
Page Turner- A comic book that ends scenes on a page turn ( The odd numbered pages ). To make a Graphic Novel a Page Turner, all scenes end on an odd numbered page.
Protagonist- The most important character in a novel, play, story, or other literary work. Not always the hero, but the character of focus in a story.
Antagonist- A major character in a book, play, or movie whose values or behavior are in conflict with those of the protagonist or hero.
Shots- Panels are divided into 5 categories of shots. They are Close Up, Bust, Mid, Full, and Wide. When describing a panel in the script the author will first select the Shot that will be used. This will then be followed by a view.
Views- Followed by the Shot, the view is where the camera is placed in each panel. They are Worms-Eye, Eye-Level, and Birds-Eye. When describing a panel in the script the view will always follow the shot. ( i.e. Mid Shot/Birds-Eye view, Close Up Shot/ Eye-Level view, Wide Shot/Worms-Eye view. ) This helps the author and artist identify where to put the subjects in each panel and where the camera is located.
Main Introduction- Scene that introduces the setting of the story along with either the protagonist, antagonist, or both.
Main Complication/Problem- Scene where the inciting incident starts the story and will be the plot. The Complication/Problem will be tied to the Main Climax. The protagonists journey throughout the story will be to solve the Main Complication/Problem. ( without any conflict, there is no story )
Main Solution- Scene where the protagonist or secondary characters discover how to solve the Main Complication/Problem. This scene will either solve the Main Complication/Problem taking the protagonist to the Main Climax, or will result in Goals that need to be completed first before the protagonist can reach the Main Climax.
Goals- Goals are separated into 2 scenes. They are the Goal Solution and Goal Climax. Goals are requirements that must be accomplished in order for the protagonist to solve the Main Complication/Problem and reach the Main Climax. They’re optional for the author. Goals offer more variety to a story and can help flesh out the main characters beyond the Main Introduction.
Main Climax- Scene in which the Main Complication/Problem is dealt with. This is most critical part of the story. A good story with a weak climax can result in a weak story altogether. The Main Climax is the second last thing the reader reads and will be the determining factor on whether or not they enjoyed the story.
Ending- Scene in which all loose ends are dealt with and concludes the story.
Step by Step Instructions
Come up with an idea or setting. It doesn’t have to be in detail for now.
Fill out the Preliminary Questions to flesh out the Protagonist and help create the Antagonist latter on. They should be opposites to create conflicts more easily when writing the story.
Create the Main Climax and Ending first. This makes doing the Goal Outline easier to do. Working backwards help keep everything relevant to each other. This will open more options when creating the Main Introduction, Main Complication, and Main Solution which is the last step. It’s easier to work with multiple beginnings and one ending than it is the other way around.
Create the Cast of Characters. Fill out detailed descriptions for each one and any relationship they have with each other. The more detailed their descriptions, the easier it will be to write the story.
Designate each Scene to a Pagination Area. This will organize the story so the author and artist know where everything is located in the Graphic Novel.
Write the Script. Keep it organized by scenes, pages, and panels. This will make it easier to read and edit.
*Optional* While writing out the story sketch small thumbnails of each page to get an early idea of what it will look like when drawn. ( Two-Page spreads always start on an Even numbered page )
Go back over the story as many times as it takes. Major errors to look for are continuity, timing, pacing, repeated dialog, and length of dialog.
Save and Print out the script. Follow it to the letter to create the artwork for the One-Shot/Graphic Novel. The more time spent creating a story and writing it, the less chance there will be of redoing anything once the artwork process has begun.
Bask in the glory of completing a Graphic Novel. Do it all over again to get better at it.
Tips for Success
Write with in artist’s own drawing abilities. Avoid writing situations, scenes, locations, and characters that will be too hard for the artist to draw.
Write with in the authors own writing abilities. The more complex a story is, the harder it is to keep everything relevant and cohesive throughout the this process. Start simple and work up from there.
Keep it exciting. Comic Books are at their best when they have more action and less words. Keep the story flowing by changing locations and adding more action. Avoid using dialog as a crutch to explain things, use the imagery to do that as much as possible. ( it’s a comic-book, not a book-book )
Preliminary Questions ( Protagonist and Plot )
1. What kind of story will it be? ( Basic Plot and Setting )
2. Will the Protagonist succeed in completing the Main Complication/Problem?
3. Will the Protagonist change or stay the same throughout the story?
4. If the Protagonist changes, how will he/she change?
5. Will the outcome be good or bad for the Protagonist?
Main Climax and Ending
Select one of the following outcomes for the Main Climax and Ending. They will be the first 2 scenes that will be worked on for the story. The two must be similar otherwise the story will not make sense. ( i.e. if the Main Climax is a Trage-Comedy, the Ending must be as well ) When selecting a Main Climax select one of the subcategories attached to it. This will help the author on the next section which focus’s on Goals to be completed before the Protagonist reaches the Main Climax and Ending.
*Note* The Main Climax is the most important part of any story and deserves the most attention. It should be longer than all other scenes in the book. Other scenes will be restricted to 6 pages max. The Main Climax is the only scene that can be 8 pages max so it can standout on it’s own a leave a good impression on the reader. This is why the Main Climax is the best place to start. Stories with bad Climax’s are bad stories altogether. Don’t phone it in.
*Note* The Main Climax and Ending will be tied to the Main Complication/Problem. If it’s hard to come up with a Climax and Ending at first, think of any Complication that could help this process get started. Don’t be afraid to change either of these later on. Just remember they’re linked.
Main Climax: The Protagonist succeeds because he/she…
Sticks to good behavior or trait
Gives up a bad behavior or trait
Takes up a good behavior or trait
Ending: Happy Ending. The Protagonist achieves the goal and success is a good thing.
Main Climax: The Protagonist fails because he/she…
Sticks to a bad behavior or trait
Gives up a good behavior or trait
Takes up a bad behavior or trait
Ending: Bad Ending. The Protagonist fails to achieve goal and it’s a bad thing.
Main Climax: The Protagonist fails, but it’s a good thing because he/she…
Sticks with a good behavior or trait
Gives up a bad behavior or trait
Takes on new behavior or trait
Ending: The Protagonist fails to achieve goal, but it turns out to be a good thing.
Main Climax: The Protagonist succeeds, but it’s a bad thing because he/she…
Sticks with a bad behavior or trait
Gives up a good behavior or trait
Takes on a bad behavior or trait
Ending: The Protagonist achieves goal, but it turns out to be a bad thing.
Main Climax/Ending selected:
Main Climax summary:
Ending summary:
Goal Outline
Using the selected Main Climax/Ending, along with each ones summary, create a list of Goals that must be accomplished before the Protagonist can reach the Main Climax. Each Goal will have it’s own Solution and Climax. The completion of a Goal will flow into the next one and so forth until the Protagonist reaches the Main Climax. Each Goal is 2 scenes.
The summary of each Goal will be a short description of it for the authors use. The Solution will be a scene that gets the Protagonist on his/her way to complete that Goal. The Climax will be the scene where the Protagonist finishes that Goal leading him/her to the next scene. The next scene could either be another Goal, where the same scene process is repeated, or the Main Climax/Ending if it was the last Goal they needed.
*Note* Goals do not have to be in any particular order. They can be rearrange in the future to create a better flow for the story. 4 are already marked here, however for a 48 page Graphic Novel 8 should be the max. There are no rules to how many Goals a story can have. However to keep with in the rules of the Pagination Area any more than 8 Goals will result in a Graphic Novel that’s more than 48 pages long.
Goal 1 summary:
Goal 2 summary:
Goal 3 summary:
Goal 4 summary:
Main Introduction, Main Complication/Problem, and Main Solution
After completing all the previous steps the Main Introduction, Main Complication/Problem, and Main Solution scenes are next. They don’t have to be done in any particular order. This will be up to the author to decide which approach works best.
Main Introduction will be the scene that introduces the setting along with either the Protagonist, Antagonist, or both. Main Complication/Problem will be the scene that’s linked to the Main Climax/Ending. It will begin the series of events that will take place in the story. Main Solution is the scene where the Protagonist discovers what has to be done to solve the Main Complication/Problem. It will lead the Protagonist to the first Goal and so forth. The author could mention every Goal that will take place in the story here, or mention only one with future Goals being created once a Goal is completed.
*Note* The Main Complication/Problem will be tied to the Main Climax and Ending so it shouldn’t be changed unless all other options have been exhausted first when creating the Main Introduction. The number of possible Introductions along with what Goal to use will be numerous, so try to come up with as many combinations as possible before changing the Complication/Problem.
*Note* The Main Solution scene doesn’t have to mention every Goal. It can start with one to get started. After the Protagonist completes a Goal a new one can surface. This is ideal for those who want to write an action packed thriller where one situation creates another in an attempt to derail the Protagonist from achieving the Main Climax/Ending. The possibilities are endless.
Main Introduction summary:
Main Complication/Problem summary:
Main Solution summary:
Cast of Characters
The next step is to create the cast. The best way to start this process is with the Protagonist and Antagonist. Every story has these two no matter what genre it is. They are the reason the story exists so they are the most important. They will also have a relationship with each other and the rest of the cast.
Secondary Characters should be created after the Protagonist and Antagonist. Each Secondary character will serve one of the following two roles. To aid the Protagonist in achieving his/her goal, to interfere with the Protagonist in achieving his/her goal, or both.
The Goal Outline and Main Climax/Ending will help create Secondary characters to help/not help the Protagonist in achieving his/her goal. Plot Devices play the same role as a Secondary character. They are just another way to move the Protagonist through the story without adding another character.
*Note* Plot Devices can be anything the imagination can come up with. A suitcase, a time machine, a diary, a law, or a vehicle. Because they will be important, use the character section to describe it in detail.
*Note* There is no limit to how many Secondary Characters a story can have. Keep in mind the more characters a story has, the more complex it will be. This will be more obvious when their relationships to the other characters are established.
*Note* There is no one way to do all these steps. Whether it’s the story first or the characters first. Whichever way gets these sections filled out the easiest will work. Characters and Stories are irrelevant to begin with. Any character can fit any story and vice-versa, although it’s best to have a story fleshed out with a basic idea of a Protagonist and Antagonist before they themselves are fleshed out.
Secondary Character
Secondary Character
Plot Device *Optional*
Writing the Script
With all the Scenes finished the first step is to designate each one to a Pagination Area so it‘s a Page Turner. Keep in mind that scenes should not be more than 6 pages, except for the Main Climax which will be allowed the maximum of 8 pages due to it‘s importance. The Main Introduction and Ending will be the only scenes that will have odd numbers since the first and last page of the Graphic Novel are by themselves when printed in booklet form. Here are some examples.
Page Layout Samples
2 Goal Layout
4 Goal Layout
6 Goal Layout
8 Goal Layout
Main Introduction pages 1-3
Main Problem pages 4-7
Main Solution pages 8-13
Goal 1 Solution pages 14-19
Goal 1 Climax pages 20-25
Goal 2 Solution pages 26-31
Goal 2 Climax pages 32-37
Main Climax pages 38-45
Ending pages 46-48
Main Introduction pages 1-3
Main Problem pages 4-5
Main Solution pages 6-7
Goal 1 Solution pages 8-11
Goal 1 Climax pages 12-15
Goal 2 Solution pages 16-19
Goal2 Climax pages 20-23
Goal 3 Solution pages 24-27
Goal 3 Climax pages 28-31
Goal 4 Solution pages 32-35
Goal 4 Climax pages 36-39
Main Climax pages 40-45
Ending pages 46-48
Main Introduction pages 1-3
Main Problem pages 4-5
Main Solution pages 6-7
Goal 1 Solution pages 8-9
Goal 1 Climax pages 10-11
Goal 2 Solution pages 12-13
Goal 2 Climax pages 14-15
Goal 3 Solution pages 16-17
Goal 3 Climax pages 18-19
Goal 4 Solution pages 20-21
Goal 4 Climax pages 22-23
Goal 5 Solution pages 24-27
Goal 5 Climax pages 28-31
Goal 6 Solution pages 32-35
Goal 6 Climax pages 36-39
Main Climax pages 40-45
Ending pages 46-48
Main Introduction pages 1-3
Main Problem pages 4-7
Main Solution pages 8-9
Goal 1 Solution pages 10-11
Goal 1 Climax pages 12-13
Goal 2 Solution pages 14-15
Goal 2 Climax pages 16-17
Goal 3 Intro pages 18-19
Goal 4 Solution pages 20-21
Goal 4 Climax pages 22-23
Goal 5 Solution pages 24-25
Goal 5 Climax pages 26-27
Goal 6 Solution pages 28-29
Goal 6 Climax pages 30-31
Goal 7 Solution pages 32-33
Goal 7 Climax pages 34-35
Goal 8 Solution pages 36-37
Goal 8 Climax pages 38-39
Main Climax pages 40-45
Ending pages 46-48
Once all the scenes are designated to their allowed pages the next step is to write out the script. The script should be properly organized by scene, page, and panels. It will look something like this.
Main Introduction
Page 1
Panel 1
Description: Wide Shot/ Eye-level view of the city with the Protagonist in the foreground. The city is in flames.
Narration- The great city, or what’s left of it.
Protagonist “ This isn’t what I expected, the fools have done us in.”
Panel 2
Description: Mid Shot/Birds-eye view. The Protagonist is seen with a Secondary Character. They both look upset.
Protagonist “ What do think will happen next?”
Secondary Character “ I think this is just the beginning.”
Page 2
By keeping the script organized by scene, page, and panel the artist can easily translated the script into images. The author has more freedom by describing the panel by using shots and views instead of using long detailed descriptions. The author can also go back and change how the panels will look by only changing the shot and view, keeping the contents of that panel the same. This increases the time it takes to write the script as well as the time spent editing. It also makes it easier to read.
*Note* No more than 8 panels per page. Keep dialog to 20-25 words for each balloon and 30-35 words per panel. If sound effects are used, put them in the dialog part of the script with the heading SFX.
*Note* If words aren‘t enough, sketch out thumbnails on a separate piece of paper to brainstorm some ideas. Don’t be afraid to also back track the earlier sections of this guide to spice it up a bit more or fix any errors.