Ready for another secret of writing comics?
Last week, I said your panel descriptions are possibly too long. This week, we’re still talking about panel descriptions, but I’m going to talk briefly about moving panels.
A moving panel is simply an action that cannot be drawn in a static image. “Jesse walks across the room, picks up the gun, spins it, spins the cylinder, then puts it back in the holster at his hip.”
That’s five different actions, not a single long action. An artist cannot draw this.
The secret is twofold. So, you’re really getting two secrets in one!
The first is to get rid of the word “and.” As a general rule, the word “and” acts as a bridge to two separate actions. The artist can only draw a single action, right? Removing the word “and” ensures they only draw a single action. In the above example, the “and” is represented by the commas. And by “get rid of,” I mean “stop.” If you’re about to write the word “and” for an action in the panel, generally you’ve already written a single action, which means this bridging word “and” is the start of a second action. Stop right there. Don’t write that second action. Don’t write the word “and.”
That’s the small secret. Here’s the big one:
Write in the past tense.
If you write each action as though they just happened a heartbeat ago, most of your moving panels will disappear instantly.
I liken panels to frozen moments in time. Picture a film or show that’s playing. Now, pause it. That’s a frozen moment in time. Describe what you see. If you’re describing that frozen moment accurately, there’s no way you can write it as a moving panel.
This is not easy to do. We’re used to writing in moving actions, because that’s all we’ve been exposed to from everything we read and watch. Moving actions are what we’re conditioned for. Writing for comics is a learned habit that is counter-intuitive. You just have to keep at it.