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    How to write a graphic novel: story world

    how to write a graphic novel

    Many comic artists don’t realize how important the story world is in a graphic novel, this can be the element that can make your comic stand out. So why many webtoon-webcomic artists don’t try to sharpen their story world? 

    how to write a graphic novel

    I’ve seen tons and tons and tons of comics with the same classic setting, characters in a normal high school environment, work offices, normal day-to-day life… if your story world is normal and your characters are not interesting enough your graphic novel is dead.

    So, the story world is immensely important in writing any kind of fiction.
    This is especially true in the fantasy genre, but it’s also true for historical fiction, westerns, and science
    fiction. Most other genres can be improved by creating a strong Story-World. Always work in your story world as deep as you work in your characters.

    how to write a graphic novel

    Let me show you a few examples of why you must care to build an important story world: 

    How to write a graphic novel story-world: Harry Potter

    Study case: Harry Potter world building

    how to write a graphic novel

    Are you a Harry Potter fan? Did you join the zillions of zealots who waited till midnight to get the newest book?

    harry potter is a worldwide hit. But, why? What makes harry potter so special? What compelled millions of other fans to stand in long lines to get their books? What makes the Harry Potter books work?

    what makes harry potter special? Is it magic? That’s part of it, I’m sure.

    Is it the extended backstory of all the characters? The endlessly complicated plots? The clever misdirection of the reader’s attention? Yes, all of those add to the story. 

    how to write a graphic novel

    My opinion is that what makes the Potter books work so well is that the StoryWorld is so carefully imagined and well-presented. An enormous amount of thought has gone into how the magical world works. (Not HOW the magic works, but what rules restrict the magic so that not everything is possible.)

     

    Because the problem with magic stories where everything is possible is that there isn’t any conflict. Conflict requires obstacles, and obstacles don’t exist when you can do anything you want by using the right spell.

    You can’t Apparate into Hogwarts. You can’t conjure up food. You can’t block one of the Unforgiveable Curses.
    You can cast a spell at your enemy with your wand, but it may miss, sometimes by just a whisker. 

    Readers of the Potter books know dozens or hundreds of such rules. The rules aren’t necessarily logical. But the rules govern the reality of Harry’s world, and some of the rules can override other rules.

    how to write a graphic novel
    All of these rules are shown in action or explained in dialogue. Together, they make a world of magic, but a world in which it simply isn’t true that “anything is possible.” That, I think, is the magic of these books. It’s a world with just as many rules and constraints as our world — but they’re different rules and constraints. And they all make sense, somehow, some way.

     

    When you open a Harry Potter book, you’re in a different world. It’s a magical world, but a world with real challenges, real trouble, real evil. It’s a world with a backstory of its own. 

     

    I’m reminded of another series that created its own StoryWorld supremely well — The Lord of the Rings.

    LOTR has even more backstory than the Potter books, and it has a more complex geography, but it has less magic and the rules governing the magic are less clear. But Middle Earth is a major character in LOTR, maybe even the most important character.
    In both books, the reader is sucked into a complex StoryWorld that feels utterly different than our own world, and yet strangely familiar.



     

    Elements that you must work to have an amazing story world

    As I mentioned in the last point, the world of harry potter is not interesting just because is a magical world, to build an amazing world try to answer all these questions:

    Time, setting, and characters:
    • When does your story happen and where? 
    • How do the people dress, act or interact with each other?
    • How is the city where your characters live, and how it works?
    • What kind of weather exists in your setting?
    • what kind of technology or magic exist in your setting?
    • What kind of government rules in your world?
    • Does your story world have special holidays?
    • what elements make your story world unique?
    Setting rules
    • Is any kind of restriction in your story world? (like my characters can’t go outside in the night).
    • Is there a kind of danger that attacks your setting?
    • how the setting stop your character’s goals? 
    • If you’re writing a fantasy world, what kind of rules exist in your world to create realistic conflict?
    • how do the rules affect your character’s world and all the people who live in there?

    how to write a graphic novel

    Extra tips for crafting your story-world

    • Maps bring a storyworld to life. If you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings, you’ve probably spent a fair bit of time poring over the map of Middle Earth that J.R.R. Tolkien created. Creating a map helps you make sense out of the very complicated story. For my webcomic among men, I designed all my scenarios on google sketch up, so I have a clear idea of where are all my settings and how they work, a good map helps you think out your story..
    •  Make a little research: you don’t need to start from zero, add locations, clothing, and all the elements that you like from other stories to build your own.
    • As movies do, draw some concept art before starting your graphic novel: this will help you to have a clear idea of the visuals of your story world and avoid your visual mistakes in your art.

    how to write a graphic novel

    Quick more examples of good story world development:

    how to write a graphic novel, manga anime example

    Anime: demon slayer

    Story world rules applied on character conflict: 

    • The time and setting in the story are very clear than feel realistic.
    • the setting has rules that affect the plot: demons can’t get the light of the sun
    • there are rules and rituals to become a slayer, and there is a hierarchy on the slayer’s system.

    how to write a graphic novel

    how to write a graphic novel comic example

    Comic: Spiderman

    Story world rules applied on character: 

    • Superhero worlds are built in a way that makes them realistic to someone get superpowers.
    • But even those story worlds have some rules that limits the characters powers to create conflict.

    how to write a graphic novel

    how to write a graphic novel animated movie example

    Movie: Howl’s moving castle

    Story world rules applied on setting: 

    • The castle can’t move without calcifer.
    • The doors have a unique magic system to land in different locations.
    • The settings in the movie are unique in each scenario that making them a memorable setting

    how to write a graphic novel

    These 3 examples are just a few of many stories that stand out for the setting, and I would like to address lots more stories that are unique for the story world, but if you want to study more about setting here are more examples from my personal recommendation:

    • Full metal alchemist
    • Death note
    • Steven Universe
    • Avatar, the legend of Ang-Korra
    • Rick and morty

    How to write a graphic novel

    EXTRA TIP:

    Whether you’re creating a story as an artistic exercise or trying to get the attention of publishing houses, making comics is an iterative and collaborative process. And story world is a very important topic to create a unique world to grab the reader’s attention.

    how to write a graphic novel

    Working in your story world will make your graphic novel unique, fresh, and memorable, I mean who wouldn’t like to be as famous as harry potter?

    how to write a graphic novel

     

    If you are looking for more info about who to start your webcomic, webtoon has a lot of resources on his page for beginners.

    check out webtoon’s starter pack for an aspiring webtoon artist here 

    Tapastic also has its own resources for aspiring webcomic creators too! 

    Check out Tapastic’s starter pack for webcomic beginners

    keep fighting for your dream job my fella aspiring webtoon artist! I know you will make it! I believe that you have the talent to achieve your goal 

    See you! 😀 

    lezlynorman is a webtoon / webcomic illustrator who trys to help amateour digital artists focused in manga / anime style, auto of among men on webtoon

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