Story Structure in Graphic Novels

Templates:

Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet (used in the examples listed below)

Lester Dent Master Plot

Examples of Story Structure in Graphic Novels:

Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean

American Born Chinese

Amulet Book One

Amulet Book Two

Batman: Year One

Blankets

Hellboy: Seed of Destruction

It Rhymes with Lust

Maus

Monsters

Night Fisher

Stitches

Three Shadows

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  1. 03/05/2012 at 1:10 AM

    Have you ever tried to adapt the beat sheet to single issue construction?

    • 03/05/2012 at 10:18 PM

      Hey David,
      Thanks for the comment. I have used the beat sheet for single issues and the difficulty for me lies in the B Story. Often, there isn’t room for a full subplot to develop in 24-ish pages, and when I force a B Story because I think I’m supposed to have one, the result is melodrama. Instead, I prefer to use more simplistic story structures while writing single issues, like the one I present in How to Use Three-Act Story Structure in Comic Strips (https://timstout.wordpress.com/2011/09/03/how-to-use-3-act-story-structure-in-comic-strips/) — I saw you linked to that page on your blog. Thanks! If a solid B Story happens to come out of that simplistic structure, then great! If not, then I’ll still have a solid A Story without any forced melodrama. If you have experimented with using the STC beat sheet for single issues, please let me know. I’d love to hear what tips and tricks you’ve learned from it.

  2. 03/05/2012 at 11:15 PM

    I broke it down using the percentages of the blake Snyder beat sheet and the b story usually falls right where a secondary story fleshes out the a story.

    I applied it to planetary issues by Warren Ellis, Grant Morrisons Batman #6xx run, and several Alan Moore image comics.

    And happily several issues I have in the works. In fact when I applied it to them, it helped me realize how to cut out superfluous scenes and increase drama in the scenes that hit the beats.
    For a 3 page short I used your calvin and hobbs structure. Wish theyd talked about structure like this in high school classes.

    For a 3 page

  3. 03/06/2012 at 9:22 PM

    Great to hear, David. Thanks for sharing.

  4. 01/20/2013 at 12:55 AM

    Hi. I write Screenplays, but I do have one story that would fit more for a Novella which is a bit shorter than a Novel. Would know of any type of beat sheet for those. I’m trying to learn how to write one as I am use to the Screenplay format.

    Thanks

  5. 01/20/2013 at 12:57 AM

    xxjboundsxx :
    Hi. I write Screenplays, but I do have one story that would fit more for a Novella which is a bit shorter than a Novel. Would know of any type of beat sheet for those. I’m trying to learn how to write one as I am use to the Screenplay format.
    Thanks

    I hate my own typo’s. I write Screenplays, but I do have one story that would fit more for a Novella which is a bit shorter than a Novel. Would know of any type of beat sheet for those? I’m trying to learn how to write one as I am use to the Screenplay format.

    • 01/28/2013 at 9:54 PM

      Thanks for the comment. The beat sheet will work for your novella just as it works for a screenplay, except the page count is different. For example, if your novella is 55 pages long then the Catalyst wouldn’t happen on page 12 like it does in a 110-page screenplay, it would happen on page 6 of your novella. I hope that makes sense.

  6. pauliecera
    03/22/2014 at 4:16 PM

    Hey Tim,
    Since your talking about thoughts on book adaptations & graphic novels, I was wondering if you ever read Stephen King’s The Stand. Brilliant book but, I recently discovered it is also a 5 part graphic novel. I once asked you about ensemble casts and your feedback was great. With that said, in a novel or graphic novel such as The Stand, that has so many different locations & multiple protagonists; what’s the desire line or theme? How would you setup a story like this?

    • 03/23/2014 at 5:02 PM

      Hey Paulie,

      Thanks for another great comment. Unfortunately, I haven’t read The Stand nor the graphic novel adaptation, so I can’t tell you how to set up something similar.

      If I were to guess, I might lead you astray. Sorry!

  7. pauliecera
    07/31/2015 at 8:05 PM

    Hey Tim,
    How have you been mate? I’m not sure if this is something you’ve covered already or not, but I’ve got a question. Online sites, countless books, etc. always refer to “raising the stakes,” or “building up suspense / the tension.” However, many of those books or sites, are vague. Many don’t even go into it at all. I was hoping if you could perhaps give an example of what they’re talking about. I understand the basics, but yet, I’m still lost
    Thanks buddy,
    Paulie

  1. 04/14/2010 at 7:20 PM
  2. 05/02/2010 at 6:28 PM
  3. 10/02/2013 at 6:43 AM
  4. 05/04/2015 at 4:38 PM

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