How to make a short graphic story

Artist, Nicole Mollett, gives step by step guidance to help students release their inner creativity

Graphic novels are comics and can be a great way to imagine and express a story inspired by your own experiences. This process involves experimenting with creative thinking skills often used in English, the arts and humanities. Visual storytelling enhances the communication of ideas and understanding of values and cultural identities.

In my workshops I use graphic story-writing to teach students many things that aim to enhance their creativity, including:

  • Storytelling and narrative control (learning what makes a strong story)
  • Communication skills
  • Learning about perspective
  • Architectural drawing
  • Perseverance (seeing the project through to completion)
  • Learning how to express your own identity
  • Editing both the narrative and images
  • Project management
  • Collaboration
  • Confidence building, adopting a positive sense of their identity

The only materials needed are paper, a pencil, a ruler and a rubber (colouring pencils and pens are optional extras, but not essential).

Preparing your drawing area

  1. Find a flat hard surface to rest your paper on. This could be a hard book, or clipboard.
  2. Try to sit somewhere with natural light, e.g. by a window.
  3. Turn your phone to silent, or put it away, to reduce distractions.

Step One: Ideas Brainstorm

Begin by looking at other comics, or graphic novels. Do you have a favourite story or play you could adapt or set in a new location? Or perhaps a poem you have written could be turned into text with pictures. It can be based on your own everyday experiences, for example, a journey to school, a trip to a museum, or moving home. Alternatively, you can us imaginary characters or scenarios. There’s real potential here to be as creative as you’d like and create a story that you feel passionate about sharing! Here are the three key stages to help form your idea:

  1. You need to decide the three main elements of your narrative: Who? What? Where?
  2. Who is your main character or narrator?
  3. Write down four completely different story options. Discuss with a partner which story you think is strongest and why?

Step Two: Breakdown the story into stages

Ask yourself what the critical moments of change are in the story. Try to aim for no more than 8 stages or frames on one page of A4 and aim to tell the story in 1-2 pages.

Step Three: Draft the layout

Keep a space for your title at the top of the page. Try to conceive of a title which tells something important about the story but does not reveal the ending.

Decide which moments are going to be the eye-grabbing drama. Try to use larger frames for the more important moments of the story and break the page down into smaller frames for other moments of the story.

Step Four: Draw the Story

Think about using different types of perspectives, for example, close-up or wide-angle. Keeping the visuals dynamic and changing viewpoints will keep the reader hooked.

When students have made their story, you could ask them to reflect on how the process has helped them to develop their creativity. You could prompt them with questions like:

  • How did this help you develop your imagination?
  • What did it feel like to make something that was not there before?
  • Which parts did you have to persevere most with?
  • What kinds of experimentation did you enjoy most?
  • What worked best when you were collaborating with your partner?

We'd love to see your graphic stories inspired by this idea so make sure to share them with us using #CreativityExchange.

Nicole Mollett is a multifaceted artist interested in public art and the role culture plays in communities. Click here to download a free 4-page print out of How to draw a graphic short story.

Follow Nicole Mollett on Twitter to keep up to date with their latest projects.

    • Interest
    • Ideas Exchange

    • How to...