Double Page Spreads

Someone who purchased the Working Writer’s Guide to Comics and Graphic Novels had a question about formatting a double page spread.

Because comic real estate is generally in such high-demand, spreads are not something you’ll run into very often, though they can be potently dramatic and effective.  (Note, I did have one publisher ask me to stop scripting spreads, because it was complicating their conversion of the books to digital format—something you might want to clear with your publisher before including them.)

Remember that a comic script is primarily a set of instructions, so any time you convey your vision efficiently and accurately to the artist, you’re doing your job right.

You can approach spreads a few different ways.

Probably the most common is to simply combine the page headings like this;

PAGES 6 AND 7

Full page art spread. Description of the pages here. Blah blah blah.

Dialogue and SFX as usual.

Advantages: Fastest method.

Disadvantages: Dialogue/SFX need additional clarification. Page numbers not individually accounted for (minor issues).

 

I tend to keep the pages separate.

When you detail each page individually, there are two general approaches.

PAGE 6

Panel 1: Full page art, spreads pages 6 and 7.

Description of the entire art spread here, focusing on all the details. Remember, only direct the artist as to what elements go on which page (and where), when it’s relevant to the story.

Dialogue and SFX as usual.

PAGE 7

Panel 1: Full page art, continuation of art from Page 6 Panel 1.

If I’ve done my job well in the first part of the spread, I’ll just copy and paste the same description here. The artist already knows what’s up, repeating the info here acts as a quick reference and keeps the info together with any new dialogue or SFX on the second part of the spread.

Dialogue and SFX as usual.

Advantages: Faster method. All pages individually accounted for. Artist has two chances to miss details (meaning he’s more likely to get everything).

Disadvantages: none.

 

The second approach is to focus on each side of the spread on each page.  

PAGE 6

Panel 1: Full page art, spreads pages 6 and 7.

Detailed description of the left page content and a general description of the right page content.

Example: “Ninjas crash through the window. (Then I’d give all the relevant details of the ninjas on the left page) One of the ninjas grabs a chandelier at the top of the page, swinging his katana underneath him. Two of the ninjas in red uniforms roll along the floor… etc. etc. … (But for the right hand page, the direction here would be general) The surprised gangsters open fire with their guns on the right.”

Dialogue and SFX as usual.

PAGE 7

Panel 1: Full page art, continuation of art from Page 6 Panel 1.

Detailed description of the right page content and a general description of the left page content.

Example: “Ninjas crash through the window on the left. Two gangsters aim their tommy guns towards the chandelier and open fire. Another gangster kneels on the floor unloading his six shooter. A fourth gangster fumbles for his gun, covered in sweat, pale and wide white eyes.”

Dialogue and SFX as usual.

Advantages:  All pages individually accounted for. Artist has smaller, more specific amounts of information to process at one time. Least likely artist will miss details. Most useful when the spread requires more direction.

Disadvantages: Most time consuming method.

 

There you have it. Three ways to tackle a double page spread. Ultimately, the actual content and its complexity will dictate which method you use. Remember in these less common, finer points of formatting, it’s all about clarity of communication. As long as you aren’t confusing your artist (or editor) you’re good to go! ▪

About the Author —
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, amazon and in select stores around the U.S.  Visit NickMacari.com for social media contacts and news on his latest releases.

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