So, you love comic books, eh? Read them since you were naught but a boy (or lass), been inspired by them, treat them with respect as an art apart from both illustration and literature? Bravo, my friend, bravo. And now you want to create your own comic! Congratulations! What's that? You say you can't draw, so you're getting an artist to draw for you? In that case, you sir, need to learn to write for comics.
Writing a comic is not (terribly) difficult but it is different from writing, say, prose. To give an artist straight prose is a flirtation with disaster at best. While skill with prose remains helpful it's hardly necessary, since comic writing is actually far closer to screenwriting. It's far more important to be able to visualize, write effective dialogue, and communicate with your artist. For these reasons, comic writers tend to use a template that looks something like this:
Panel 1: A shot from the ground looking up at a well-dressed, middle-aged man as he paces across a hardwood floor. The man's clothing and the surrounding room are Victorian and a grand portrait of some long dead ancestor hangs partially out of view on the left edge of the panel. The man himself is portly, balding slightly and looking in a distressed manner at his hands.
Victorian Gentleman: Damn him... Damn him to hell! Why did he have to leave without telling me?
Letterer note*: Put an italic emphasis on the "me" in the last line.
*assumes you are posh enough to have a letterer.
From there, you'd continue to write the descriptions and dialogue for each panel in the same manner. Monotonous, but fairly simple to understand, yeah? Good. Let's examine the individual elements in depth a bit before we move on.
- The Panel Description- This is that first chunk at the beginning from the example, right after "Panel 1:". It's where, if your comic was a movie (which it's not), you'd be setting up the scene. Make sure to set up the "camera" angle first so your artist has a clear idea of the perspective he'll have to use. Describe the basic action and actors involved and then add any details you feel the panel would benefit from or are part of the plot. If you feel the need, emphasize the importance of certain objects to the artist, like if a character MUST have pointy ears. Try to avoid coming off as too demanding though. One of the best things you can do is let the artist do as they like with regards to the majority of the panel. Not only is it easier on them but it will probably end up realizing your vision better than it would have if you listed every single thing.
- Dialogue- No more coming up with synonyms for "said" here, folks. Write it as your characters would say it, but be cautious when descending into onomatopoeia. If you use creative spelling to indicate an accent, make sure it makes sense when pronounced. With that said, an accent or unique way of speaking is an excellent way to develop your character: Wolverine's rugged, bad-ass demeanor shines through in his every line and Kenshin Himura's oscillating personality is evident in how he switches from speaking humbly in third-person to decisively in first person in the heat of battle. Make sure to write dialogue consistent with the character you want to create - this may seem obvious to experienced writers, but be wary nevertheless.
- Letterer Note- To be honest, I've never had a letterer. But if you do, and they work on adding the text for dialogue and sound effects, be sure let them know what you want to see. Do you want wobbly text to indicate a character's drunkenness? Bold for anger? Script for eloquence? These are all things to take into account, even if you're doing the lettering yourself.
Now, none of these rules are cast in stone (I even break a few in that example) but they do represent the basic groundwork for how a comic can be efficiently written (not necessarily should- your style may well be different from mine). Keeping them in mind will at least keep your comic coherent and avoid any misunderstandings between yourself and your artist. Moving on from the basics...
Page layouts determine where the panels go, what size or shape they are, what order they go in, etc. As writer, designing the page layout will typically be your responsibility. Be sure to keep the layout coherent and relatively clutter-free, as it is the mold in which you shall cast your story. See below for further elaboration.
The gutter is the term for the space between two panels. It is crucially important to remember that the gutter represents a transition in the mind of the reader from one image to another. If two characters are arguing in one panel and in the next one is on the floor bleeding while the other stands over him with a bloody fist, the reader will assume that one punched the other in the transition. The entire flow of your story relies on the gutter. Handle it with extreme care.
Panel placement dictates how your reader will move his or her eyes across the page. Thus, place your action panel in the center, your revelation in the lower right (which is also a great way to get them to read on), your villain's monologue in the top two or three panels, etc. Feel free to experiment with panel placement and the gutter, creating massive spaces between panels to indicate the passage of time, or scattering anecdotes in panels around the page for a surreal exposition sequence.
Ending The Page
If you're continuing the same scene on the next page, treat the transition like you would the gutter, but more so. If, as is almost always the case in a webcomic, the reader cannot see the next page, use the final panel as a cliffhanger or to change scenes in the heat of the moment. Manipulate your audiences' expectations.
Now, I could go on, but by now you should have a fairly good idea of how you want your comic to play out. So go! Go to it and write! There is nothing more to learn from me that you cannot gain from experience. I wish you all the luck in the world.