Inspired by the question: How to design characters for a comic series?

The question is broadly about both creating a character team and art technique. The OP has been directed to Arts and Craft and Graphic Design, which are about technique, software, and specific crafting skills. Those exchanges don't cover narrative questions like creating a comicbook team, signifying through visual cues or worldbuilding through visual images. (All 3 links are valid topics on WritingSE.)

Notice the subject of building a comic book team is allowed when the art aspect is removed, but that actually makes no sense because a comic is primarily a visual storytelling medium, and comic characters can't be divided from their visual design. A similar case could be made for other audio-visual narratives.

However WritingSE makes exceptions about graphic design when the tools and techniques are about formatting text on a page or creating a book as a physical object. In otherwords, graphic design questions are ok if it is words, but not where it involves a visual-oriented narrative.

We have several tags where another media component is implied: https://writing.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/comics https://writing.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/illustrations https://writing.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/videogame https://writing.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/screenwriting https://writing.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/script

Many answers under those tags silo the discussion into separate "writer" and "artist" roles with advice commonly phrased as "writers just write, the artist will make the art decisions."

We have a bit of a disconnect. There are situations that can be neatly divided into writing or graphic design, but there may be questions where they are inseparable because the visual is narrative, and vice-versa.

Please consider this a lukewarm proposal for WritingSE to allow for all narrative discussions irrespective of media. When a question veers into specific art-craft or technique the OP can be steered to the proper exchange, but where the question clearly involves character and storytelling we should not send the OP away. There is no other exchange to discuss creating a narrative.

2 Answers 2


That is a really good question.

I am with you. If the question is about narrative and storytelling, I'm okay with it even if it's not about wordcraft.

Perhaps the defining characteristic is: does it have a script? All stories have scripts, whether you call them outlines, storyboards, or actual scripts. Many scripts are inside the author's head, but they still count.

If the question is about designing comic book characters (and in the case of that specific question, the real problem with it was what/how it was asking, not the topic), it's probably going to end up being a work that contains written language (or spoken, for animation/etc). All artists need to know how to work with writers, if they are not writers themselves.

The idea of "writers just write, the artist will make the art decisions" is actually total BS, as anyone associated with an actual comic or similar form can attest. Sometimes an artist comes up with the concept and layout and collaborates with a writer to get the dialogue. Sometimes the writer creates everything and decides how s/he wants to the art to look, giving very specific directions to the artist and having the artist revise things until it matches the writer's vision. With many more possibilities.

In all cases, writers and artists work together. It can just be in any order, with any level of complexity, and with multiple different strategies.

I think people may be confusing a form like comics with illustrations. In the latter case, you often do have a finished book and then the publisher (sometimes the writer) sends the manuscript to an artist and says, we need a cover and 5 full-page pictures by such and such a date. Comics aren't like this at all.

I'm not as familiar with the inner workings of other forms that blend writing and art, but I know many are also collaborative and much of the work overlaps. Yes, the art creation itself is for other sites, but the creation and carrying out of scripting, and all that derives from it, seems on topic to me.


That's a fine line. If the question had been about figuring out the appearance of characters for a written media (novel etc.), it would have been allowed. If the question had been about figuring out story elements for a comics, it would have been allowed. We even allow some questions about illustrations - we have a tag for them too.

For me, what tipped me towards suggesting GraphicDesign.SE was that the OP was asking "[Do I] take a realistic drawing of the creatures and make it colorful?" The thought process had a paintbrush in mind, rather than a pen (figuratively speaking). It appeared to me that the question was about designing the characters' visual appearance, rather than the elements of the appearance that are key to the story. To use an example, in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, Morpheus always appears pale, dark-haired, dressed in black, eyes filled with stars. That's story-design elements. But the specifics of how he looks on the page vary between different artists. So, "pale, dark-haired, dressed in black, eyes filled with stars" would belong here, whereas the way the character actually appears on the page would fit better into Graphic Design.

Then again, I might have been wrong in my judgement. Panel layout for a comics, for example - it's a graphic element, but it's bound up with story and pacing. So it does belong here.

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