Saturday, 19 October 2013

A comic script template for Word, with page/panel/balloon numbers that auto-populate and auto-update

Since I started my Oscar Wilde comics project last year, I've been working with the script format used by Jim Zub on Skullkickers (pdf of an example Skullkickers script on the Comic Book Script Archive). But yesterday, Jim tweeted that he'd switched to Fred Van Lente's script format.


I think I might make the switch-over too. Van Lente's format is good and clean, you can fit more information onto a single document page without it getting cluttered, and it even has the thumbs up from letterer extraordinaire Nate Piekos.

Fred Van Lente's excellent comics script format. It looks great, but it could be easier to use.

The only problem is, I've already got my script template set up how I like it with Word's Multilevel Lists function. OK, I've probably lost most of you right there... Why should you care about Multilevel Lists? Because they save you time and they make formatting your script a breeze, that's why! (Don't worry, you won't need to learn how Multilevel Lists work to take advantage of them).

A Multilevel List is a way of automatically numbering sections in a document. A comics script has many numbered pages, panels, and word balloons. Typing numbers is boring, and there’s always a chance you’ll make a mistake. Plus, if you cut a page or a panel and paste it elsewhere in your script, you’ll have to renumber everything manually. Arghhh!

Multilevel Lists solve these problems, because the numbering is automatically generated by Word.

My updated version of Fred Van Lente's script template. See the greyed out Panel Numbers? That's because they belong to the same level of a Multilevel List: a level designed for Panel Numbers. Whenever you start a new panel, select the "Normal" style, and the Panel Number will be populated automatically. No need to manually update numbers for pages, panels, or balloons!

All this to say, I've modified Fred Van Lente's script template to include Multilevel Lists. I've also set the template up so that, whenever you press Enter, the style of the next paragraph is automatically set to what you probably need.

For example, if you've just started a new page, the chances are your next task will be to write a description for your first panel. And once you've written a panel description, you'll probably want to write some dialogue. With this template, those common style changes are automatic, so you'll spend less time manually switching styles and more time writing!

DOWNLOADS

Click here for the TEMPLATE WITH INSTRUCTIONS (.dotx)
Click here for a CLEAN TEMPLATE WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS (.dotx)

Although Fred's template looks great, I prefer it with a few small modifications.
  1. Page numbers in numerals rather than words (I'm writing an OGN, and "PAGE 186" looks neater to me than "ONE-HUNDRED EIGHTY-SIX".
  2. The document page number in the header (Fred says it's easy to get confused between the document page number and the comic page number, which is probably true, but I want to be sure that hard copies of my scripts can be reassembled if they're dropped).
  3. Slightly more spacing between panels. It's only the difference between 6pt and 10pts, but I like a bit of a visual separation.
Click here for a MODIFIED CLEAN TEMPLATE WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS (.dotx)

WHERE TO PUT THE TEMPLATES

The templates come as .dotx files -- Word templates -- so you'll want to drop them into your templates folder so that whenever you start a new script you can base it on a template. If, like me, you're on Windows 7, you'll find the folder at C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates

As you'll see, the template looks exactly the same as Fred's. He's the comic book pro here, not me. If he says this is what a good script should look like, and Jim Zub and Nate Piekos agree, that's fine by me. The only difference is the automatically populating page, panel, and word balloon numbers.

If you have problems with the template, or if you think it's a Jesus miracle, let me know!

UPDATE: The template got the Jim Zub seal of approval, and Fred Van Lente has added it to his download page. If I update the templates at any time, I'll make a note of it here.


Discover more about Oscar Wilde's American lecture tour, and my comic about it, at oscarwildecomics.com

5 comments:

  1. Hi, thanks for this great article. I'm curious if, with these templates, can you auto-insert or auto-complete names? Like, assign names to particular hotkeys? An example might be, if I'm writing an X-Men script- if I type ALT+W, it automatically pastes in Wolverine. ALT+X would be X-Men, and ALT+P+X would be Professor Xavier. That type of idea...?
    I'm hoping to not have to, for example, type out "Professor Charles Xavier" when I could just type ALT+P+C+X or some such.

    ...I'm not actually writing an X-Men script, just using that for an example....

    Thanks for any help on this!

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    Replies
    1. Hi there, thanks for the question.

      Fortunately, it's very easy to do this. It uses the Building Blocks feature of Word.

      1: Type your character name and put a tab after it (you don't want to re-type the tab every time either).
      2: Select the name and tab.
      3: Hit Alt+F3. This brings up the building blocks dialog.
      4: Change the name to a short abbreviation. You will have to type this every time, so keep it as short as possible. You could choose PX for Xavier, but X is such an uncommon letter I would just use X.
      5: Hit OK.
      6: Whenever you want to type the character name, type the abbreviation (e.g. X) and then F3. The name plus tab should appear.

      If you have any trouble (for example, if a line break is included in the text that appears, you may have to turn on the paragraph marks so you can see the pilcrow and make sure you are not selecting that before hitting ALT+F3.

      Good luck!

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  2. Perfect- thanks Rob for the great article and resources, and for your helpful answer!

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  3. Just what the script doctor ordered. Thank!

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    Replies
    1. No worries, Dennis, glad you found it useful!

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