Looking for help in understanding the process of writing a branching web comic with Comic-BEE, or why there are four different workflows? We’ve assembled some guidance based on our experiences writing comics and helping others through the process.
Read it all, or use the links below to jump to the specific workflow.
There’s no right or wrong way to define your lesson plan, and they can be very simple. To start, concepts are the big ideas that you want to address in your comic – things you think students should be aware of. For any comic, we recommend 2-3 Concepts so there is somewhere for the story to go: too few concepts, and the story isn’t interesting; too many concepts and the comic will be very long. For a lesson plan on “Passwords” here are some example Concepts:
- A password is the key to your online identity at a website
- Strong passwords are more resistant to hacking attempts
After creating your concepts, consider the Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) for your comic. These are more focused ideas than the concept, and are stepping stones between the big concepts and the very specific learning objectives. KSAs could be terms that you want students to understand. For each Concept, think of 1-3 KSAs. The following KSA examples correspond to the Concepts shown above.
Knowledge of the role of passwords in user authentication.
Ability to create a strong password.
Learning objectives are concrete actions you want students to be able to do after reading your comic – comics are powerful tools for learning! We recommend creating 1-2 learning objectives for each KSA.
Remember: memorize that authentication is how websites confirm who you are.
Remember: describe 3 characteristics of a strong password.
This help video on YouTube shows how to create a Concept in the lesson plan.
The lesson plan includes an optional tab for Real Life Scenarios (RLS). You do not need to create any RLS – this is totally optional. Creating a RLS gets you thinking about how to create a scene with choices, which is what you will do when you write your branching script. If you found a news story that illustrates parts of your lesson plan, you can use the facts, setting and choice (what did someone actually do) in that story to create a RLS in your lesson plan. You can then use this RLS as a scene in your script. We hope this helps you finish your lesson plan and move to the next stage in creating your comic!
In search of some inspiration to create the script for your branching comic? Here are a few ways to approach any story:
Leverage any real-world experience you have: describe the situation, what happened (in general, to you, and to others). Then describe as choices what you did, what you thought of doing but decided was impractical, and what you thought of doing later (when it was too late?!). And of course, change all the names to protect the innocent!
Find a related news story, with a good ending, or really bad ending, it doesn’t matter. Research details of what actually happened, then use that as the basis of your script.
Make the comic like a quiz bowl game: it’s all about choosing the right answers – how does something work, or why, or what is true. And at the start of each scene, give the readers immediate feedback: let them know if their prior choice was right or not.
Use our Sample Project as an example of how to create your comic, especially your script! After you log into Comic-BEE, look for the ADD SAMPLE PROJECT button at the top of the page, to the right of the big Video Tutorials button. The Sample Project is a mostly complete comic project that you can review to understand how Comic-BEE works. That Video Tutorials button can take you to a Help Video on how to create a new scene in your script. And this blog entry gives you a simple strategy to create your script, scene by scene. Don’t worry, your script does not need to have as many scenes in the example shown in the blog!
For every choice in your script, specify who would make this choice, ranging from Apprentice to Journeyman to Master (you could use the same expertise level for all choices in your comic), and specify the choice quality, from Worst to Average to Best. Don’t overthink the choice quality, just rank a choice in relation to other choices in that scene.
If you wrote a Lesson Plan for your comic, you should associate one learning objective to each choice–this is how you know your comic is aligning with your Lesson Plan. Often, this is easily done as soon as you create the choice, but if you’re stuck on one choice, don’t sweat it: add a comment to that scene** to remind yourself to come back to it later, and keep on writing your script. When you’ve finished the script, go back to the commented scene, look at that choice and the following scene; is the learning objective clearer?
**Available in the mini-menu that opens when you click on the > symbol on the far right of a scene node in the graph view.
When you have completed your script, review it carefully and verify:
- If the comic is a course assignment, do you have the right number of scenes?
- Every choice is connected to a scene.
- Every choice has a red, yellow or green colored symbol in the middle of it (the specified choice quality).
We hope this helps you finish your script and move to the next stage in creating your comic!
Storyboarding is where you start to visually layout your branching script, scene by scene. The goal of storyboarding is to get the essential characters or props and text for every scene of your script into individual panels and then do a sanity check: does what you put in the panels align with the questions and choices from that scene in your script?
You may want to go directly from writing your script to creating your final comic, but it can be very challenging to turn your words into pictures. Creating a storyboard is like making a quick pencil sketch, block out visual elements in individual panels. You may change the layout of panels, or re-arrange or edit text several times to get content to fit in the panel.
In visual storytelling, conversational speech should be kept brief. Tell the story visually by showing the reader what’s going on. For example, here’s a poor layout of a storyboard, with far too many words in each panel:
Here’s a much better and more visual layout of the same content:
The Comic-BEE Storyboard help video is a quick guide to get you started. It covers selecting the layout of the individual panels for a scene, the stick figure assets with different poses, moving assets, and working in layers.
You may want to add all the visual details to your storyboard: e.g., the desk, chair, table lamp, and coffee cup on the desk. A storyboard is not the place for that level of detail – you want to quickly figure out what is essential, how it will fit in the panels, and then move on. Adding in all those extra details in storyboard actually slows you down when you get to the next (and last!) step: Final Comic.
A new Storyboard feature – designed to ultimately speed creation of your final comic – is tagging. By tagging (with the Tag button in the upper left of the storyboard menu) those storyboard characters or the available prop assets (desk, chair, computer, etc.) that you repeatedly use, they can be automatically replaced with full color graphic assets that you select when you get to the Final Comic workflow. Tagging can save time in creating the Final Comic panels for stories with many scenes. Note that character assets can only be tagged if you added characters to the Titles & Characters section of Write Script. Props can also be tagged – but be consistent in naming a prop the same thing!
We don’t yet have a video to step you through the full tagging process – but there is an overview of the process of assigning artwork to tags and running the automated process in the section below on Final Comic.
Here are some tips to help you work with storyboard assets in the panels
- If you do tag an asset and then copy the asset into another panel or scene, the tag stays with the storyboard asset.
- You can select multiple assets and Group them (tagged or not!), and then copy, paste or resize the group.
- If you need to resize or reposition a Group, do this while everything is selected, as clicking anywhere else in the panel will ungroup the assets.
- Once you have a Group selected, you can use the Pin capability to save everything to use later. Look at the very bottom right of the storyboard canvas and click on the small up arrow, then click at the left on the lower tab (find the push pin!) for Pinned Assets. Note that any “Recently Used” assets show by default. Once a Group of assets is pinned, you can add the whole group to your panel by just clicking on the Pinned asset.
We hope this helps you finish your storyboard and move to the LAST stage in creating your comic!
At last, Final Comic, the last step in creating your branching comic! This begins with a configuration page and copying over your completed storyboards, so there’s something to work with in Final Comic. We recommend that you do not work in Final Comic until you have completed *all* your storyboards to avoid accidentally copying over any completed Final Comic panels with your storyboard panels.
If you tagged graphic assets in Storyboard, the next thing to do is to have Comic-BEE automatically replace those assets. Here’s how to do that:
- Click on the Tagged Items tab; on the left is the list of the characters from your script that you tagged and at the right are all the full color graphic assets for characters available in Comic-BEE.
- To assign an asset to a character, click on a character name to select it, then click on the character asset you want to use for that character – easy!
- When all your characters have assets assigned, click on the Props tab, then select a prop tag on the left and click the asset you want to use on the right. Note: there is a Category filter (shapes, technology, furniture, office, school, etc.) above the prop asset images on the right to help you quickly find specific assets.
- When you have completed assigning assets for all your Tags, click on the blue Save button, then on the blue Apply Assignments button.
- The modal window will let you know if there are any unassigned tags. Please note that the system cannot detect if you tagged all characters in your script. If everything has been assigned, click the blue Apply button.
- Once you click the blue Apply button, Comic-BEE will queue the process to automatically apply your assignments. You must close out of the comic project in order for the system to start this process. We suggest you log out of Comic-BEE altogether. It should take about 10 minutes for the process to complete.
- When you log back into Comic-BEE, look for the bell icon up by your account name in the upper right corner. Click on it to verify that the automated assignment process has completed.
- Open up your comic and review your partially complete Final Comic panels. To see your Final Comic panels, click on the white Go To Final Comic Editor button in the upper left of the Final Comic page. You can begin adding finishing details, such as additional props, backgrounds, etc.
To bypass the Configuration page and automatically go to the Final Comic Editor in the future, click on the Settings tab within the Configuration page and check the box for that option.
The Comic-BEE help video Transforming your Storyboard to Final Comic shows you how to replace any storyboard assets still in your panels, change a character’s expression or pose characters, pinning assets, setting backgrounds, formatting fonts, and previewing your scene. Using the same background across different panels and scenes suggests the same setting; using different color backgrounds is an easy way to change locations (school vs. home). You can resize a color square shape to create the floor.
As discussed in the storyboard section above, this is the time to add details to your panels! Use the Group and Pin capabilities in Comic-BEE to truly speed up creating your full color panels, as well as the Recently Used list at the bottom of the page. Even if you didn’t use any tagging, using the Group and Pinning capabilities described above in Storyboarding can can save you a lot of time: carefully position a group of assets just once, and then Pin the selected group and everything stays in place. One click adds the pinned group to a panel and ensures it looks the same in every panel in a scene, or even across scenes: a lamp on the same place on a table that is next to a couch, with consistent proportions and placement. Remember, if you need to resize or move a Group of Pinned assets, do so immediately after adding them to a panel, as clicking anywhere else in the panel will ungroup the assets.
If you cannot find a full color graphic asset you need, you can upload an SVG file to your project; https://pixabay.com/ and https://www.svgrepo.com/ are two good sources for free SVG files, most with “open source” licenses that are free to use even in commercial projects.
When you think you are done, preview your Final Comic carefully to make sure you have completed all the panels in every scene, and that you are satisfied with the appearance.
We hope this helps you understand the process of creating your comic. If you have any questions or need assistance, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Comic-BEE Team