Bookbuzz 2016 author blog: Tips for writing graphic novels from David Orme

Published on: 23 November 2016 Author: David Orme

Boffin Boy and the Poison Garden featured as one of our Bookbuzz books in 2016. Author David Orme talks about the collaborative process when making comics.

David Orme

Writing a graphic novel is a team effort - author and illustrator. I'm really lucky to work with Peter Richardson on the Boffin Boy books.

When you're the writer of a graphic novel, you only have speech bubbles and captions, and sometimes this isn't enough to explain what is going on. It's really difficult to explain how the various characters are feeling. In a story written the usual way, you can add useful adverbs - 'she said angrily/sadly/inquisitively' and you can describe what the characters are thinking. 'She listened to his story, but she didn't believe him'. This just doesn't work with speech bubbles.

That's where the illustrator coextract from Boffin Boy Goes to Hollywoodmes in. Peter is really good at drawing faces. When you look at someone's face you can get a pretty good idea of how they are feeling. Have a go at drawing faces to match feelings like surprised, or grumpy, or frightened, or trying not to laugh but you just can't help it.

Boffin Boy ExtractIt's not just faces. Hands are important too. Think about all those different ways we use our hands too take the place of words. How do we hold our hands if we haven't a clue what is going on? (That happens a lot in Boffin Boy books!)

There is one little problem. Boffin Boy books have been translated into different languages and are read in lots of different countries. Different people use their hands in different ways to show what they feel - and sometimes what is friendly in one country can have a very different meaning somewhere else - and could even be quite rude!

So - if you like the idea of writing and illustrating graphic novels - my advice is to practice drawing hands and faces!


Bookbuzz is a reading programme from BookTrust that aims to help schools inspire a love of reading in 11 to 13-year-olds. Participating schools give their students the opportunity to choose their own book to take home and keep from a list of 16 titles.

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