So i’ve mainly seen Alan Moore throw around this method for figuring out how many words fit on a page or in a panel. He attributes it to Mort Weisenger, a former editor of DC Comics.
Basically it breaks down like this. He proposes that you can comfortably fit 210 words on a comics page without it looking too text heavy. So if you have a six panel grid you’ve got 35 words per panel.
I think this is a great tool for writing comics where it’s important to say as much as possible with as few words as possible as space is limited and the word/picture ration is important as far as being pleasing to the eye. Another way to put it: If it’s too long for a tweet it’s too long for a word balloon.
I keep a chart pinned up in my workspace that looks something like this:
While I find this a useful writing reference for tightening up wordy dialogue, I also find it’s a helpful reference for laying out collaborative comics pages.
If I’m have trouble figuring out a tricky layout where there’s a lot of dialogue I might do a quick word count to determine the panel size. Lots of words = bigger panels. Alternatively if I want more space for a visual I might do a word count for another panel to figure out how much space I can steal. So 52 words or so is a 1/4 page panel.13 words or so is a 1/16 page panel.
I tend to stick to more traditional page layouts with clearly defined borders and gutters so YMMV.
Also I don’t use this all the time because that just reduces everything to math which is boring but it’s a good tool to have in the box when space is an issue.
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