George Mathen aka Appupen, a renowned graphic novelist, shared his view on how to become a graphic novelist with the children during their sessions with him. Here’s what he had to say and the children’s take on it.
Step 1. Form an idea:
According to the children, this was one of the three most difficult steps in the process. The idea can be as simple as a trip to the market or as complex as a war. But the only condition is that the idea should be your own interpretation, opinion or story of something.
Step 2. Form your characters:
Obviously, the idea has to be conveyed by someone. Hence, create your characters. Children picked inanimate objects, plants, animals, humans, the sun, the moon, extinct species etc. to tell their tale. They made half-page sketches of their main characters, focussing on their appearance, attire and quirks to help them keep the characters recognizable throughout the story.
Step 3. Create your story:
The characters will need a way which leads to the grand or subtle unveiling of your idea. Thus, you create your story with a narrative arc. The narrative arc can be gripping or bland, convoluted or prosaic, lengthy or short; any form you feel is necessary for your idea. Children felt that it was easiest to create the story in the form of a list first and then fill it with additional details. While some simply wrote down the story, others made rough sketches of it.
Step 4. Convert story to frames:
Not unlike a film, you need to decide what to show your reader. Break down your story to track the movement of your character and his/her/its progression. Bear in mind that the background is just as important as your foreground. The foreground is used to tell the story and the background is used to set the stage. Children made rough sketches of the frames and decided what they would keep in the foreground and what would be kept in the background. They proceeded to fill in the details into their characters and the stage to make them seem more alive and real.
Step 5. Pack a punch
You can do that in three steps:
- Arrangement: Decide which frame comes first and which comes last to make the story as interesting as possible
- Panelling: Increase or decrease the size of your frame based on importance
- Colour: if you’re doing a black and white strip, use streaks of colours in frames that are important for the story. If you’re already doing a coloured strip, make the colours bolder in important frames.
Step 6. Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Continue to work on the frames, panels, sketches, story and character until you feel that the idea has been delivered satisfactorily. After all, it only took George 6 years to finish one of his books.