Graphic Novel By Nevada McPherson
I’ve been writing screenplays for several years and enjoy telling stories through visual images. After storyboarding my first short film script, Route of All Evil, I decided to start creating graphic novels based on my screenplays. The story board I’d done for my short screenplay was rather bare bones and designed to help me save time setting up shots as I directed the short film. After that I looked forward to “directing” a whole feature screenplay on paper, and to filling in all those details that screenwriters imagine but must leave to others in the process of bringing a screenplay to life as a film, such as set design, costumes, casting (drawing exactly how my characters would look based on how I’d always imagined them).
The reality of putting all that on the page turned out to be much harder than I expected. I had to get back into the groove of drawing, making the characters consistent from frame to frame, and maintaining continuity with the background settings. Since my book was hand-drawn, it was a long, meticulous process, requiring many run-throughs.
What kept me going throughout the several years that it took to do all this was the belief that each run-through would result in something closer to what I had envisioned all along, and sure enough, I finally came to the point when I considered it finished. I suppose I could have gone on correcting, smoothing and re-doing, but I knew this was my best at this point, and that I’d take all I had learned on this project along to the next.
My writing style is quirky and offbeat, and my artwork is, too. I’ve learned to embrace this as my authentic voice and style: what makes my work unique. As writers and artists, we draw inspiration from others and their work, but ultimately must project our own vision out there and trust that it will resonate with our perfect audience. Often they see things that we didn’t and help us to see our own work in a new light. People say that occasionally they see someone walking down the street that reminds them of one of my characters or vice versa. I love that—sometimes there’s the shock of recognition along with the joy of discovering something new in one’s work or in others’ comments about the work that makes those long hours worth the effort.
Whether we create our scenes and tell our stories on a computer, with a pencil and pad or a paintbrush and canvas, the act of creating makes us better observers, better listeners, and helps us to appreciate the world around us in deeper ways. The difficulty of portraying some of my characters from various angles makes me look closer at other people, at myself in the mirror. What is it about the contour of the face at that angle? What does it convey? How do I draw that line so that it looks most natural? And even if it’s awkward—maybe it needs to be; let it happen! Just a character’s gaze, a roll of the eyes, eyes half-closed, or the weary look of near defeat can replace a page of exposition, description or explanation. Screenwriters and all careful writers of fiction know this, and so do visual artists and graphic novelists as they blend the elements of writing and artwork to try and show/tell a story.
If you decide to experiment with turning one of your stories into a graphic novel, experiment to find your own style. It may take time but trust that it will emerge! If you don’t draw much, practice putting your characters in various settings, look at pictures in magazines for inspiration. People watch! Practice enough and you’ll see things starts to evolve in the right direction. If you decide to work with an artist, find someone whose sensibility matches your own. Whether it turns out polished and smooth or quirky and maybe a little uneven—let your characters’ voices ring true, take us somewhere new, and we who love a great story will gladly follow!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nevada McPherson received a BA in English-Creative Writing and an MFA in Screenwriting from Louisiana State University-Baton Rouge. She has written over a dozen feature-length screenplays (several award-winning!) one short screenplay and two graphic novels. She lives in Asheville, NC with her husband Bill and Chihuahua, Mitzi.
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