What I’ve Learned About Writing From Comic Books
Many an expert has prescribed voracious reading as a way to improve your writing.
But don’t just read anything, they warn—read quality in addition to quantity. Read the stories in styles you adore, the plots you wish you’d come up with yourself. It’s by reading what you love and admire, say the experts, that you will improve your own writing the most.
Well, I love comic books.
Can You Really Learn How to Write from Comic Books?
Comics may not seem like a good go-to source for a writer—there’s hardly any writing on the pages of a comic book, right? But hear me out.
Comic books have indeed improved and inspired my writing in a number of ways. Here are my top three:
1. Focus on the visual
A book may be only words, but we’re in a visual culture. Consuming stories that do rely on that visual element helps me remember the power of paining a good visual picture.
This goes beyond the setting. Next time you’re looking for inspiration on how to get the most from symbolism for your theme, just pick up Alan Moore’s Watchmen or Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.
2. Max out your dialogue
Comics don’t have the benefit of paragraphs to give background or describe what’s going on in a character’s mind. It’s all image and the dialogue.
Meanwhile, the characters keep propelling through the plot at full speed, from on-the-street sleuthing to back alley fight scenes. This means tight, high-pace talk in the midst of tight, high-pace action.
When is this not a good approach? I’ve fixed several high-dialogue scenes by using this talk-interspersed-with-action tactic.
3. Get comfortable getting weird
Comic books routinely get weirder than Wonderland, and it’s my absolute favorite thing about them. For proof look no further than Superman’s myriad strange powers, or flip through The Umbrella Academy.
Any time I start to worry that my fiction is going too far off the deep end, I remind myself that there’s tons of comic book readers out there just like me that love to take a dive into a strange tale.
Comics are an excellent source of inspiration to improve your craft.
But these days, you don’t have to make a trek to your neighborhood comic book store to benefit from it—comic books are everywhere these days, from your television screen (The Walking Dead, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) to the movie theater (X-Men, Superman).
So why not embrace it and take a page from the comics for inspiration?
Do you gain inspiration from comics?
Embrace the comic books! Write for fifteen minutes, letting the weird, high-action, visual style of comics inspire you. Share your work in the comics, and be sure to give some feedback to others, too.