Notes On Craft

How I write. In case anyone gives a shit.

– I build an outline for each arc with major story beats, some specific scene notes, maybe some important dialogue. For an issue, I start by just numbering 1 through 22 and writing a brief description of each page. Sometimes after that I’ll go through and breakdown each page into very brief panel descriptions and build from there. Other times I’ll just start at the beginning and build the whole thing as I go. It usually just depends on how long I’ve had the story in my head and how nailed down I’ve already got it. My best days of writing, when I can churn out 12 or more pages, are always preceded by several days of no writing at all, but instead just a lot of thinking, so by the time I’m actually sitting down to write, the story is already nailed down and all I have to do is get it on paper.

– The first five pages and the last five pages of any script are usually pretty easy. It’s always that shit in the middle that’s hard.

– I always aspire to have something memorable on every page, whether a line of dialogue or an action or what. I certainly don’t always achieve that, but I try.

– I write people throwing up a lot. I write sour looks and stern stares a lot. I use “fuck” a lot. Just making note of all that.

– I try not to dictate camera angles or set up shots. I always figure that’s best left to the artist.

– I can’t listen to music or watch TV while I write. I’m too easily distracted.

– I try to always talk my dialogue out, to say it out loud. Would sometimes make for an interesting listen, no doubt, if someone happened to be passing by the window.

– I break the supposed dialogue rules all the time, in terms of how many words you shouldn’t exceed in a given balloon or panel. Maybe I shouldn’t it, but fuck it, if the story needs it, it needs it. I don’t feel like I’m overly wordly overall though. Maybe I was a couple years ago when I was first starting out, but these days I truly appreciate a great silent beat. It may sound weird, but I love being able to take out dialogue or narration from a page because you realize that you don’t need it, that it’s all there in the art.

– I suck at coming up with character names. I’ve reused lots of the same names, usually of people I know. When I was in college I would always flip through CD liner notes to find good names, but these days all my CDs are packed up in boxes in the basement. I try to keep a list where I jot down interesting names I encounter. The sheriff in SCALPED takes his name from a road sign I passed years ago in Ohio for the town of Wooster. I used to also keep a notebook for jotting down interesting bathroom graffiti, though I’m not sure anything useful ever came of that.

Okay, enough of this. I should be doing actual writing now.


Craig Zablo at: 12:14 PM said...

I really appreciate posts like this one. Gives us some insight.

KentL at: 2:21 PM said...

Very cool. When you say you work the story out in your head before starting any writing, do you at least make notes of the story? Sort of an outline?

Jason Aaron at: 3:23 PM said...

Yeah, I'll always have an outline worked out for each arc. Usually a pretty loose outline.

tomstewdevine at: 4:04 PM said...

This post is great, I'm always interested in the process of comic writers. It's also cool to hear you say that you have removed dialogue or narration to let the art do the story telling, because I appreciate that in your writing. Thanks for putting our such tremendously high quality stories...nice beard.

bafocomics at: 9:58 PM said...

Man, i really like this kind of posts, when talking about comics there is a lot of stuff out there to help you draw but not that much when it comes to writing.

I`m from Brazil and i fell that my country needs a little more people trying to write good comics, we sure have a lot of talented artists drawing stuff here and there, but none of the comics writers out there are from Brazil.

Well, maibe in time someone here will break out in the mainstream.

Love you work, just found out about who you are and what great characters you builded in your graphic novels, i`ll try to read more of your work.

Keep up the awesome writing man, and if my english sounds shity... well, maibe my english is shity.

See ya.

FreedomForce at: 5:54 PM said...

Thanks for posting this, Mr. Aaron. It's always nice to get some type of insight into a writer's process. Question though: do you ever find yourself straying heavily from any of your outlines despite how loose it may be?

Jason Aaron at: 7:24 PM said...

Sometimes I suppose. Not usually though. The thing about writing an ongoing series is that you're usually writing for multiple artists at the same time, so you have to skip around a lot, from arc to arc. That means you gotta know for sure how everything is going to come together.

Scott at: 8:05 PM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott at: 8:07 PM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott at: 8:18 PM said...


Thank you for this article. I always enjoy reading about how other people write. Your technique is fairly similar to mine. Hopefully, it won't be long before the amazing art on my projects is complete and you can see the results of how I do things. Recently, I've been taking on more prose writing with projects like One thing I did to come up with a name was use the name of a similar character backwards. The name sounds funny and strange and fits the guy. Don't think it would work for every character, but for the weird ones, it's good. Also, it's fun to make names inside jokes. Maybe they look like regular names, but when pronounced they are actually funny phrases, like when Bart would prank call Moe's. Just ideas. Can never have too many of those.

Take care.

Star City Street Hockey at: 12:21 PM said...

Thanks, Jason, good ol' words to live by. Fancy that, here I was thinking I was the only person who put "fuck" in dialogue;)

Popular Posts

Blog Archive


Follow by Email