HOW TO MAKE A GRAPHIC NOVEL (3/7)
(Continued from Part 2)
Ask the students if they did anything in their new sketchbooks between classes. Ask if any of the students would be willing to share what they’ve been writing or drawing and what they like about the sketchbooks.
Take a few minutes to give each student the follow handouts (right-click on each image and save to desktop to print).
This is my attempt at making a fun review of what we learned in Part 2. Give the students 10-15 minutes to identify the anatomy of the comic page, and to fill in and find the correct comic terminology in the word search. Once everyone has finished, go over the anatomy together. We should all know what panels and gutters are by now!
At this point I shared a 50-minute presentation on how I made my graphic novel, Upside Down: A Vampire Tale, from beginning to end, covering everything from developing the story and characters, to creating a rough draft, and to publishing the final book. It’s a condensed presentation that I’ll have to convert to video for another time, but it starts the conversation for demystifying the creation process and showing practical steps that build on each other. We’ll cover everything I bring up in more detail as the class goes on.
The three-act structure is a model used in writing and in evaluating modern storytelling that divides a fictional narrative into three parts (or acts), often called the Setup, the Confrontation and the Resolution. While it is certainly not the only form of storytelling in existence, it is a great starting point for students that want to create their own stories.
Spend some time discussing each act and the roles they play in telling the entire story. Focus on where balance, conflict and resolution take place, as well as the function of the structure. In my handout, the squiggly line represents a linear story that moves forward. The bumps and rising line represent conflict and obstacles that the protagonist must face before finally reaching a resolution in the third act.
Before class I cut out each of the three panels individually and taped them to the board out of order. After discussing the three-act structure I asked one student to put the Calvin & Hobbes strip in order and another to put the Garfield comic in order. Once the class decided that the panels were in order, we talked about how the jokes worked according to the three-act structure.
Take Garfield, for example (yay–we get to take Garfield seriously!).In the first panel we see a normal day in the life of Jon and Garfield. Things are balanced and there are no problems, though Jon introduces the idea of trading Garfield for Marceli. This begins and ends Act One. Panel Two shows Garfield’s distress over the situation, yet he doesn’t run from the problem. That’s Act Two, even if it is a small struggle. Act Three’s Resolution can be found in the third panel, when Garfield gets excited about the cookies. The problem has been overcome and Garfield has reached a conclusion. Even though these are simple gag comics, it’s a good way to introduce conflict and resolution.
Okay, okay. The kids are ready to move on to something else now. Too much talking. What time is it? Adventure Time!
It’s hard to find a show that everybody likes, but Adventure Time episodes are only 11 minutes long and they’re packed with imaginative stories and characters, and many of the show’s writers and artists have backgrounds in making comics.
My class watched Season 1, Episode 5, The Enchiridion, and I asked them to pay close attention to the story. Encourage the students to watch for signs of the three-act structure, including: the introduction of the main conflict, points of rising action, and the resolution. After watching the episode, discuss the story with the students and ask them to point out where each act begins and ends.
END OF PART 3
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