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Writing With Pictures: Step 1 - Formulate a Narrative

Written by Nick Kremer
July 11, 2012

Step 1: Formulate a Narrative

            Some graphic novelists start from scratch and visually draft their narrative as they go, acting as both writer and illustrator; others create visual adaptations of existing prose work, “translating” the written word into visual-verbal form; still others work in collaboration from the onset, in a partnership where a writer creates a narrative script that an illustrator uses to craft the comic.  There is no one “right” way to begin the composition process.

            That said, I have found that in teaching my students to focus on the nuances of a new form of writing, it is easiest for them to adapt an existing narrative than to try to create new content at the same time they are being asked to apply elements of visual literacy.  Often I ask students to use a piece of writing they have composed earlier in the school year and explore the possibilities of adding a visual element to the essay/story.  Alternatively, using commonly known fables and fairy tales serves as an easy entry point for the most reluctant of writers.  Published poetry also works well, due to its brevity and considerable use of verbal imagery.

            INSTRUCTIONS: Find (or create) a poem, short story, or excerpt from a longer work of prose that you would like to experiment with adapting into a visual-verbal format.  [If you are looking for quick suggestions, try retelling the Cinderella fairy tale, or adapting William Carlos Williams’s “The Act” or the first scene of Romeo and Juliet]

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