Tips From My Favorite Graphic Novels That Will Make Your Creative Writing Better

If you’ve ever read a graphic novel or even just the comic section of your local newspaper, you know that they’re an incredibly powerful form of storytelling. I’d argue that they’re one of the most effective ways to communicate ideas and emotions while also telling stories.

The best part? They’re not just for kids! There’s no reason why all writers should be intimidated by graphic novels, either. We can learn a lot from them if we know where to look:

How To Make A Graphic Novel – Try these 6 tips to get it done!
1. Explore graphic novels for creative inspiration.
2. Analyze visual storytelling techniques for depth.
3. Learn character development from graphic characters.
4. Adapt pacing techniques for engaging narratives.
5. Integrate visual cues to enhance reader experience.

Start With A Love Story

A great way to start your story is with a love story. It’s an introduction to the characters and their world, it introduces the conflict that drives everything else in your narrative, it sets up the theme, and it provides a setting that you can explore in depth later on in your story.

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Include As Many Types Of Relationships As Possible

Don’t forget to explore your character’s relationships with other characters, too! You should include friends and family, enemies and rivals, teachers and students. If your main character has a love interest, introduce them via the other side of their relationship.

For example, if they have an enemy or rival who they hate but also admire in some way (like Batman and Joker), focus on exploring that dynamic first. This will make it easier for you to establish their relationship as one of mutual respect later on when they start fighting each other again in future episodes or books!

Make The Reader Feel Powerless

I think the best way to do this is by showing the reader that you understand how they feel. Make sure your characters are in a situation where they have no idea what to do, and then show them being overwhelmed by it. 

Because you’ve put yourself in that same place with your readers, they’re going to feel powerless and out of control too and as we all know, nobody likes feeling powerless or out of control.

So instead of just telling us “they don’t know what’s going on,” show us what happens when the characters try to figure things out like when Nick tries his hand at magic for the first time in Wonder Woman Vol 1: Blood (DC Comics).

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Make Every Detail Meaningful

One of the most important things I’ve learned from graphic novels is that every detail must be meaningful.

This may sound obvious, but it can be easy to get lost in the weeds. When you work on a comic book series, you have to add a lot of details so that the world feels right and readers can follow along without getting lost. 

But even though there’s often a lot going on in these stories, none of it feels random or superfluous because each detail is carefully planned out by the writer and artist beforehand and every character’s motivations are clear at all times.

One particularly memorable example: when Deadpool first appeared in New Mutants #98 (1991), he was just an unnamed mutant who was hired by Cable’s government-sponsored X-Force team to help them track down another mutant who had gone rogue; later, Cable would reveal himself as Nathan Summers (Cable’s real name). 

In their second meeting in Secret Wars II #4 (1992), where Deadpool helps his new friends fight off Dr. Doom for control over Battleworld we find out why Cable hired him: he needed someone who could withstand being teleported across dimensions multiple times because his power left him virtually indestructible! 

And yet even though it seemed like this detail didn’t make sense at first glance “Why would I trust my life with some random mercenary?” it did serve an important purpose: since most people don’t realize their immortality.

Visual Storytelling Is Just As Important As Verbal

Visual storytelling is just as important as verbal. It’s not just the pictures that tell your story—it’s all the elements in the panels. The visual choices you make can show emotion, relationships between characters, and even the passage of time or thought.

A comic book artist knows how to tell a story without words, which makes it much easier to translate into other mediums like film or television. 

A good example of this is how Marvel Studios has been able to bring Avengers characters from comics onto screens across the world with great success; they know how to use visuals effectively and make sure every frame tells its own story within itself rather than being part of some bigger narrative (although those still exist).

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The show, Don’t Tell

The show, don’t tell is a screenwriting rule that can be applied to any form of fiction. It means that instead of telling your readers what something looks like or feels like, show them. For example:

“She was beautiful.”


“Her skin was pale, her eyes wide and blue, and her hair was long and black.”

The second example gives the reader something visual to hold onto while they’re reading the scene or chapter it helps them envision what’s going on through concrete imagery rather than just being told that someone is beautiful

Use The Perspective Of An Animal

Animal characters are a great way to show things that humans don’t see, understand, or feel. One of my favorite examples is Jeff Smith’s “Bone” series. In it, a group of three friends—one human, one skeleton, and one dog go on crazy adventures together and get into all kinds of trouble. 

But what I love about this series is how it uses the animal characters to reveal things about nature: For example, when the animal characters fall asleep under a tree in Boneville one night during wintertime, they realize it’s cold because they don’t have fur or feathers like humans do! 

It’s such a cool way to show us something important about life as an animal (and also makes me want to try painting with leaves).

Play With The Panelling To Create Tension

Paneling is a great way to create tension. When you use a lot of panels in a row, it creates suspense and the reader is waiting for something to happen. Paneling can also be used to show the passage of time in a scene, by using fewer panels on one page and more on another this creates an expectation that something important has happened between these pages.

For example: If you want your reader to focus on one character or object in your comic, make sure it’s in the center panel so that no other object distracts from it!

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Show The World Your Characters Inhabit. All Of It 

Want to show the world your characters inhabit? All of it. Everything about your world should be important to your story, and that includes what’s going on around them, inside of them, and as far out from their eyes as you can get.

For example, let’s say two characters are standing in an empty room named “Room A.” The first character says something like this: “I’m feeling nervous.” The second character answers: “Me too.” The first character adds: “I think there’s something very wrong with this room.

The second character responds by saying: “Whatever it is I don’t want to know.” And then they leave Room A together but not before closing the door behind them (and locking it). 

That’s all well and good if we want our readers or viewers to simply know how these two people feel; but if we want our readers/viewers to understand why they feel what they do, then we need more detail than just two sentences from each person involved.

Be Self-Deprecating, But Clever Enough That You Seem Sincere

Self-deprecating humor is a great way to make your character seem more human and relatable. But it can easily be overdone, so be careful not to step over the line into arrogance. 

One way to do that is by making sure that you aren’t too clever; undercutting yourself with self-effacing humor shows confidence in your writing while being overly cute or self-aware will come across as pretentious.

Be sincere! You’ll want to avoid sounding like you’re putting yourself down for the sake of getting laughs (which is what I just did). It’s okay for your character’s voice to be funny honestly, that’s probably part of why people will read their story in the first place but readers mustn’t be laughing at something you sincerely believe about yourself or another person in real life.

Finally: Have fun with it! Self-deprecation might sound like an easy way out when it comes time for editing revisions, but there’s nothing worse than trying too hard at being funny and missing the mark entirely because nobody got what you were going for in the first place. So remember this rule: screw up as much as possible before publishing anything online!

Use Life’s Mundane Details To Make Something Seem More Real

Learn to use life’s mundane details. A character’s appearance isn’t the only way you can bring them to life on the page their surroundings and their day-to-day activities are equally important in helping the reader connect with them. 

If you’re writing a scene about your protagonist walking through their neighborhood, think about what else might be going on around them: are there street vendors or other pedestrians? Are they listening to music? Do they smell something that reminds them of home? 

The more details you include, the more fully fleshed out your characters will seem, even if they’re doing nothing at all! Just don’t overdo it; keep in mind that there should never be so many details that it becomes disruptive or difficult for readers to follow along with your story (unless this is part of your artistic intent).

Use Ellipses And Slow Pacing To Show The Passage Of Time, Or Thought

They’re a great way for information to sink in for the reader. In the graphic novel Love and Rockets: New Stories #6, Jaime Hernandez uses ellipses multiple times to show the passage of time and thought. At first glance, this seems like a simple way to show a change in location or even time (a parenthetical afterthought), but it’s more complicated than that. 

The word “ellipsis” was originally used in Greek poetry to indicate that a line had been cut short for dramatic effect or rhythm; today, it still functions as an indicator of incomplete thoughts. In addition to showing changes in thought, ellipses can also be used to show how one moment leads to another or doesn’t lead to another. For example:

This illustration shows the main character stopping mid-action with his hand outstretched toward someone else; by using only ellipses between these two panels and not adding any dialogue or narration boxes, we’re able to infer that there’s some kind of pause between them perhaps he’s having second thoughts about what he just said? 

Or maybe they’re both just pausing while they process what just happened? Without being told outright by someone else’s words or actions (or even our own), we’ll never know exactly why this character stopped mid-sentence but by using ellipses instead of full sentences or paragraphs when describing their actions. 

Hernandez leaves space for us readers to fill those blanks ourselves with our own experiences and imaginations from our lives outside reading comics.

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Use Flashbacks And History-Telling To Help Build Your World And Characters’ Backgrounds 

Don’t overload, though; keep it relevant! Flashbacks and history-telling can be great tools to help build your world and characters’ backgrounds, but they must be used with care. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up confusing or overwhelming the reader with information that isn’t relevant to the story at hand.

As far as flashbacks go: if your character has had a lot of life experience before the events of your current story, don’t overload us with it! Instead, use flashbacks sparingly (but still effectively) so we know where this person came from and how they got here without making it feel like an info dump.


As you can see, these are all great tips for any type of writing. If you want your work to look like a graphic novel, then I would suggest keeping these tips in mind! The best thing about them is that they’re not hard or complicated; anyone can follow them. 

If anything, this list should help you avoid some common pitfalls when writing fiction with an emphasis on visual storytelling.

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources that delve deeper into the world of graphic novel writing:

How to Write a Graphic Novel: Explore comprehensive insights into the process of crafting a captivating graphic novel, from character development to storytelling techniques.

5 Tips for Producing a Top-Quality Graphic Novel: Discover five essential tips that can elevate your graphic novel production, covering aspects such as artwork, pacing, and narrative cohesion.

10 Tips for Creating Your Own Graphic Novel: Writers Digest provides valuable advice on bringing your graphic novel ideas to life, including pointers on scripting, collaboration, and refining your narrative.


How do I start writing a graphic novel?

Starting a graphic novel involves brainstorming ideas, creating characters, and outlining the plot. Consider your story’s theme, setting, and message to lay a strong foundation.

What are some key elements of a successful graphic novel?

A successful graphic novel often combines engaging artwork with a compelling storyline. Character development, pacing, and visual storytelling techniques are crucial aspects to focus on.

How can I balance text and visuals in my graphic novel?

Achieve a balanced blend of text and visuals by using dialogue, captions, and imagery strategically. Each element should enhance the narrative and contribute to the reader’s experience.

Is collaboration common in graphic novel creation?

Yes, collaboration is common in graphic novel creation. Writers often work closely with illustrators to bring their story to life visually, ensuring seamless integration between text and art.

What are some tips for self-publishing a graphic novel?

Self-publishing a graphic novel requires careful planning. Consider aspects like formatting, printing options, and distribution channels. Building an online presence and engaging with potential readers can also boost your success.