From Script to Strip

ONE of the questions I'm asked most frequently (aside from "who are you, again?") is "How do you even go about writing a comic script, guy?" That being the case, I thought I'd share with you a script from one of my Minnie the Minx stories from the Beano, and breakdown what's what so you get some kind of idea of what's involved. Prepare to peek behind the curtain!

Of course, this is only the way I do it, and approaches to writing may vary. But hopefully this will give you a rough outline of what to expect.

So: this is a script for a two page Minnie the Minx that appeared in issue #4149 (out 20th August 2022). I've annotated the script with numbers, and then below the page is an explanation of what's what. Got it? LET'S GO!

1.  The header. This is where the title of the strip I'm writing (Minnie the Minx) and then the title of this particular story (The Fall of Arcade) go. I often like to give the scripts a pun-tastic title, like this one which was a play on the 'Fall of Arcadia', a battle fought on the last day of the Time War in Doctor Who. These titles never see print, so really I'm just doing them for my own amusement, and sometimes the editors! 

Next up is the number of pages (2) and the name of the writer (me, that's my name). 

2. The panel number. I write which panel (or frame) on the page this is (panel 1 in this case). I write it in bold as it helps everyone to see, at a glance, the breakup of panels on the page. 

3. The panel description. In this lump of italicised text is a description of what is going on in the panel. I'm generally in the school of thought that prefers to keep these bits pretty brief. I make sure to set the scene, include any important elements, and any visual gags (although often the artist will often throw in their own sight gags too!) I try not to be too prescriptive, as I figure it gives the artists a bit of leeway to interpret the scene in their own way. I think Stan Lee advocated for this kind of writing. Am I saying I'm as good as Stan Lee? That's for you to decide, though the answer is yes. 

Other writers prefer to give more description, even outlining shot composition, colour, angle and so forth. Sometimes I do, if I feel a set up or a joke really needs it. Some writers, like Nigel Auchterlounie (of Dennis and Gnasher fame!) even draw their own thumbnails for each panel. All these ways are valid, I just seem to have settled on this particular style.

I write these panel descriptions in italics so it's easy to see, just by looking, if it's going to be a more complex or simpler panel. Characters' names in the description I write in CAPS, so the artist can easily see who's in this scene.

4. Dialogue. This bit is laid out a bit like a film script, where you have the name of whichever character is speaking on the left (sometimes above, depending on who's writing) and then their lines. I keep this in a normal typeface, so overall each panel script has every part displayed clearly (panel number in BOLD, directions in italics, speech normal). It's just a way I've found of organising everything in my own head, but I think it works out well.

Francis has two lines of speech in that first panel as I'm indicating each line should be in it's own speech bubble. Sometimes this helps with the pacing of a joke.

Any words in CAPS are words I'd like written in bold type, for emphasis. The excellent designers and letterers at the Beano are all over this stuff! 

Here's the next couple of pages, which include all of the above elements, so feel free to have a look through and get a feel for how it all hangs together. We won't need more annotations until page 4 of the script, so I'll meet you down there!

Annotation time!

5. Captions. Captions are those little boxes with text in them that appear on comic pages. Sometimes they're used to indicate the time of day, or whether time has passed (as here), Editor's Notes (a long-running gag where the Editor interjects into a story), narration...that sort of thing that speech bubbles won't really cover. 

6. FX. FX is short for FFX, the tenth game in the Final Fantasy videogame series. Psyche! It's really short for 'EFFECTS', and it's here that we insert any sound effects we need to be added by the letterers and designers. Here, we have the sound effect 'WHIRRRR' and the infamous SFX, 'Lift'. Sometimes just a word describing the action is as good as an effect!

We're nearly at the end, so let's press on...

Our final annotations! 

7. 'We pull out to see...' As I've mentioned before, comic script writing is a lot like film or TV script writing, in so far as you're describing something visual with words. As such, you'll often find yourself using 'movie' phrases like 'wide shot', 'close-up' and so on to get across how the panel should look when needed. Here, the previous shots of LE CASH were 'single shots' (i.e one character) so the instruction here was to pull out to show a bigger scene, and reveal the final joke. 

8. END. The End! The end of the least, for now - edits notwithstanding! 

And there we have it, a full script for a two-page story. Now let's see how all that came together, and how the AMAAAAZING Laura Howell drew it up, and how the AMAAAAAZING designers (Mark McIImail, Leon Strachan, Gary Aitchison and Elaine Skinner) made some sort of sense out of my words. Here's the finished comic:

So that's that! A full comic strip from script to strip! I hope you've found this little runthrough helpful, if you've any questions please use the contact form or drop me an electronic mail at

Bye for now!

- Fanton.

The script pages and finished artwork are © DC Thomson & Co, 2022.


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