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  • Writer's pictureEugenia Sestini


Combining drawing and writing

Do your children read any comic books? My kids are currently obsessed with Snoopy and Charlie Brown, as well as Garfield.

Last week, I wrote about the power of dialogue, and how it can make your story come alive when it seems that paragraphs of character and setting descriptions are not enough for your story to take off. This week’s post takes dialogue a step further.

When children start learning to write, they often draw pictures and label them. This is a first important step towards storytelling, simply drawing and describing what they see. Later on in school, children will spend more time writing and reading, and less time drawing. Today we will try to bring the drawings back into the picture.

A sequence of four panels
The pros

You may be familiar with comic books and graphic novels (novels in comic-strip format). But what are the benefits of using them as part of a writing exercise?

Some children truly enjoy writing dialogues between characters, but they may get tired of the he said, she said format and the many synonyms for the verb to say.

If they are given a chance to draw, many children will jump at the opportunity and will not feel like this is the same old writing exercise they are usually asked to do.

Younger children can simply draw a picture and label it as best they can. I often read stories with children, then ask them to retell the story (or a section they enjoyed) with a picture and some words.

Combining words and pictures can also be ideal for older children. The complexity of a story in a comic book is up to the writer, and there is no reason why your children cannot challenge themselves by using exciting adjectives or funny exchanges between characters.

A comic strip is still a story

For any reminders about planning your story, you can go back to my post on this topic. You will still need characters (you can draw stick figures or more complex ones), you will still have a setting, a problem and a solution. The plot will have a beginning, a middle and an end. The presentation will change, but the result will still be a story. Remember that a story where nothing goes wrong will be a problem in itself – the characters need challenges to show who they truly are as they try to navigate the problems presented to them.

Your children can read some comic books to familiarize themselves with the format.

The technical bits

Speech bubble

Comic strips consist of a sequence of panels – these are the individual frames, usually square or rectangular. Each panel will show one “scene”, one moment in the story. When you place several panels together in a strip, they can sometimes be separated by a small space between them, called a gutter.

Your characters’ words will be inside speech bubbles (or speech balloons), linked to them by a stem pointing to the speaker. If your character is thinking something but not saying it out loud, you can include thought bubbles – a round or cloud-like bubble, linked to the character by a chain of smaller round bubbles.

For sound effects, you can include words that indicate noise into the panels, such as

roar, splash, bam, ding. These are also known as onomatopoeia – words that imitate or suggest a sound.

Onomatopoeia or sound effects

Comic books don’t need to be about heroes on rooftops or heroines flying (though they can!), stories can be about any character your mind can create – from a nine-year-old girl to an army of flying ants who want to eat all the pizza in town.

I hope your children have lots of fun drawing their stories!

Happy writing!

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