Since its inception the Stanford Graphic Novel Project has hewn to a few central tenets: 1) that the telling of a human story is a deeply necessary enterprise, one worthy of study and creative devotion; 2) that sourcing stories from the real world increases their capacity to do good, seek justice, and bring about change; and finally, 3) that through collaboration, a story can become richer, more inspired, and more layered with human experience.
This twenty-week course at Stanford is designed to teach nonfiction research, visual storytelling, and long-form narrative structure to undergraduates through the collaborative creation of a graphic novel. Early in the course, students propose real-life stories as possible subjects to adapt. After plotting the storyline and producing sample illustrations, the class discusses the merits of each proposal before selecting one to tell as a group. We then work through the rough outlines of the story, begin thumbnailing scenes, compositing characters, and researching backgrounds.
As a class, we have to make important artistic decisions every day--about characters, characterization, scene selection, point of view, perspective, narration, dialogue, pacing, style, flow composition, tone, and color, always keeping in mind that the goal is to represent the real lives of the people whose stories we’re inspired to tell. We then turned to the story itself, scripting, critiquing, re-scripting, fact-checking, thumbnailing, re-critiquing, inking, cleaning, critiquing, and redrawing. Once an ink was done we transitioned into digital editing, where we colored, corrected, and added speech balloons and captions, collecting all of the focussed work into a final master InDesign file, where the book is assembled and printer-ready PDFs are produced.
The bedrock of this course is collaboration. Together, the students write it. Together, they draw it. And together they make the tough choices to create the best book they can.