How to Write a Manga Script
Writing a manga script is a complex and challenging task; but it is very rewarding when you see the final product. Manga is a Japanese style of comic book that is presented in a smaller format and with distinct styles of drawing. It is typically distinguished by long, lean characters with large eyes and dramatic hair and other exaggerated features. Even if you don't have any drawing skills of your own, you can take part in this exciting visual medium by writing a good script for an artist to work from. Follow these guidelines on how to write a manga script. See your words come to life with beautifully illustrated characters!
Creating Your Outline
Research manga. Manga is a form of comic all its own, with different conventions and rules than regular American comics. Read a variety of manga, but focus on the genre of story you want to write. Pay attention to the format, pacing, character styles and plot resolutions.
Research manga writing and art techniques. On-line I found more sites devoted to comic script writing, but some of these same rules will apply. Any information you can gather on how to create this visual art form will be helpful to you. Many manga and comic authors and artists have their own websites, where they list information and examples of their own personal styles and techniques.
Follow publisher guidelines. Look at the websites of manga publishers you plan to submit to. They usually have very detailed writers guidelines about format, pacing, dialogue and more. Make careful note of these guidelines and any samples they provide. The only way to get published is to give the publisher exactly what they are asking for.
Outline your plot. I find writing by hand in early stages helps my creativity flow more readily; but if you work better on the computer, do so. Write up your story ideas, brainstorm critical scenes. Work up a rough outline.
Take each plot point from your outline and write on its own note card. Estimate how many pages of manga it will take to tell that part of the plot. Write the number in the upper right hand corner.
Lay the cards out on your table in the order you would like the plot to go. This is your chance to really "see" the plot, and rearrange the elements for better flow.
Estimate how long the manga will be. Follow the publisher's guidelines for minimum page numbers. If you have 100 pages or only 60 to tell the story, this will affect how much you edit the story and how much detail you can include.
Divide the story into three sections: introduction, main plot and conclusion. For a 100 page story, you'll probably want 20 pages of introduction, 60 pages of main plot, and 20 pages for the conclusion.
Divide the cards into these three categories. Add up the estimated page numbers you've written on the cards. If you have 23 pages for the introduction, you'll have to cut 3 pages or borrow from the allotted pages for the main plot.
When you've reached the correct number of pages for all sections, you now have your final outline.
Writing Your Script
Take the first card or first few cards to work with. Work in manageable installments of 5 to 10 pages.
Write out the general plot and dialogue for the first section. Keep it simple. Manga is much more streamlined than prose, and boxes are much smaller than traditional comics. Brevity is key. Dialogue should be natural but simple, and the action and expression of the characters should carry the weight of the story.
Manga pages generally have four to six panels. A five page section will therefore have twenty to thirty panels available. Work through your written scene and number the sections that will make up the panels.
If you end up with two many or not enough panels, edit them to fit the parameters. Keep in mind that big plot points should be presented in larger panels, so you might have some pages with only one or two panels.
Take blank paper and divide into sections. Make rough drawings of how your panels will be presented. You don't have to be an artist; stick figures will do fine. Setting the basic arrangements of characters and plot on the page will help you see the visual aspects of the story more clearly. This is where you see if character positions are redundant, if there's going to be too much dialogue for the space and other important factors. See Tips section.
Label each sheet with its corresponding page number. Number the panels in order.
Write out the script that the artist will be using. Follow the publishers guidelines for format. Use your written notes and your representative drawings as guides to explaining the action for the artist.
Be as clear as possible. Let the artist know the position of the character's bodies, where they're standing in relation to each other, the placement of objects. Also give emotions that the character is feeling; so the artist can give them the proper expression. See Tips Section.
Add sound and emotion effects. Depending on how much the publisher asks for, go through your script and add the details such as the screech of a car's tires, the snap of someone's fingers or the crimson blush of an embarrassed character. These details are important for conveying the true feeling of the scene.
Add reference photos. The picture may be perfect in your mind, but the artist has no idea what you're picturing. Good descriptions are helpful, but if you're describing a Victorian house or an historical costume, find a photo or drawing online that you can insert into your script. A picture is definitely worth a thousand words in this case and will help the artist draw just what you want.
Spell check and proofread your script. Make sure the script pages and panel numbers follow correctly and that you haven't skipped any numbers or sections.
Follow publisher's guidelines for submitting the script. Usually they will want you to include a summary, outline, and detailed character descriptions for the artist. Include photos for the character descriptions when necessary.
- Deciding how to arrange the panels and portray the action is the hardest part of doing a manga. This is where familiarity with other manga works will help; sometimes just looking at how a similar scene in another manga was done will help you figure out how to arrange yours.
- If a scene is necessary but just won't fit into the allotted pages or panels, write it how it works best. If the publisher won't accept a longer work, take those pages out of some other part of the story. Often you'll find a redundant or unnecessary section that can be streamlined or cut out entirely.
- Don't forget to repeat details in the script, even if you think they're obvious. Keep mentioning that a character's arm is in a sling or that they have a cigarette in their hand. It's easy for an artist to focus on the details you've written and forget about what's happened before.