BUG MAKES IT BIG IN GRAPHIC NOVELS…HERE’S HOW
by Aaron Reynolds and Neil Numberman
(Interior. Aaron Reynolds, a writer of children’s books and graphic novels, is sitting at
his writing desk. He’s typing, but suddenly stops when a shadow falls over his screen. It’s a kid, about ten or eleven.)
Aaron: (looking up) Hey.
Kid: Hey. Whatcha doin’?
Aaron: Um…writing. Who are you? What are you doing in my writing room?
Kid: I’m just some random kid.
Aaron: Ah. A random kid in my writing room. Okay.
Kid: Yeah. Act like I’m not here. (pause…Aaron starts to get back to work, but is
interrupted) Aren’t you an author?
Aaron: (turning back around) Ignore you, huh? That’s gonna be tricky. Yeah. I write
kid’s books and graphic novels.
Kid: Graphic novels? Like comic books?
Kid: Whatcha writing now?
Aaron: An article about how a graphic novel gets made, but I wanted to write it LIKE a
graphic novel, so that’s what I’m doing.
Kid: But…there’s no pictures. A graphic novel has lots of pictures.
Aaron: Not at first. Not mine anyway.
Aaron: Seriously. I don’t draw.
Kid: I must have the wrong house then. I thought the dude that lives here makes
Aaron: I do. But I don’t draw them….I write them.
(Kid pauses while he thinks about this, then…)
Kid: That’s messed up.
Aaron: No, it’s not.
Kid: You can’t make a graphic novel without being able to draw.
Aaron: Well, I do. Like my new graphic novel…it’s called Joey Fly, Private Eye…
Kid: Way to work that in there. Nice plug. Smooth.
Aaron: Yeah, thanks. Well, Joey Fly starts out like this. A script, just like this one.
Kid: Just the stuff people say?
Aaron: Mostly. I also write in what I see happening in each scene.
(Kid flops into a big cushy chair and puts his feet on Aaron’s writing desk, makes himself
at home. He looks at Aaron like he’s lost his mind.)
Aaron: See? Like that. It’s called “stage directions”.
Kid: Oh cool! Like actions and stuff!
Aaron: Yeah, exactly.
Kid: Do it again.
(Kid gets up, kind of excited now. He’s putting it all together in his head, but then he
notices a fresh sandwich on Aaron’s desk. Goes over, lifts the bread…he’s kinda
hungry…but decides he doesn’t like tuna. Flops back down in the chair.)
Kid: Hey, that’s awesome how you made me do all that stuff! And I do hate tuna.
Aaron: It’s a script. In the graphic novel, I write the story. I come up with the characters. In Joey Fly, Private Eye, I create what happens, what characters are in it, all that stuff. Then I put it into a story…a script like this.
Kid: But it’s not a graphic novel. No pictures.
Aaron: Not yet. It will be soon. But first, I break it into panels.
Aaron: Like this. Chunks. How I imagine it will get broken into boxes in the finished
graphic novel. This helps me figure out the flow and pacing of the story, helps me cut
extra junk that’s not needed, and helps the illustrator figure out how he’s gonna lay out
the pictures on the page.
Kid: Cool. I notice you use lots of words like “gonna” and “whatcha” and stuff. My
Language Arts teacher would go nuts on you for that.
Aaron: Yeah, well… I try to write how people really talk. I think that’s important,
especially for a graphic novel. It all depends on the character. Like, Joey Fly says some
gonnas, but he also uses lots of detective-y phrases…
Joey: Life in the bug city. It ain’t easy. Crime sticks to this city like a one-winged fly on
a fifty-cent swatter.
Aaron: Like that. That’s his opening line in the book.
Kid: Okay, that’s pretty funny.
Aaron: Well, I try.
Kid: But it’s still not a graphic novel.
Aaron: Man, for a random kid who shows up in my writing room, you’re seriously pushy.
Kid: Do you know many eleven-year-olds? We’re all like this.
Aaron: That’s right. Not being one, I forget sometimes.
Aaron: Well, now that it’s all broken into panels, I give it to my publisher. And once
she’s happy with it, she sends it off to the illustrator and he starts drawing.
Kid: You tell him what to draw?
Kid: You tell him what the characters should look like?
Kid: What do you tell him?
Aaron: Nothing. Most of the time, we never even meet.
(pause…the kid’s mouth is hanging open.)
Kid: That is seriously messed up.
Aaron: That’s how it works. Unless you are the writer and the illustrator (which I’m
not…I don’t draw, remember?), that’s how it works.
Kid: So what happens then?
Aaron: The illustrator looks at it and begins to sketch out what he thinks the characters
Aaron: Like, for Joey Fly, Private Eye, the illustrator is a guy named Neil Numberman.
Neil: Hey kid. What’s up? Hey Aaron.
Aaron: Hey Neil. So, Neil might decide after reading this script that you look like this:
Kid: That’s me?
Kid: You made me a bug!
Neil: Well, we’re talking about Joey Fly, Private Eye, so I’m thinking in bugs. It’s my
job to use my imagination, to come up with my ideas of what Aaron’s characters and
story look like.
Neil: And as I start drawing and figuring out what it all looks like, Aaron’s story moves
away from being a script and I start creating real characters…
JUST CLICK ON THE PICTURES TO ENLARGE FOR CLASSROOM PRINTING.
Thanks so much to Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Numberman for this awesome classroom support!
© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti. www.ReadingRumpus.com