I recently ran a Manga Workshop for grades 6-12 at my public library. With very little artistic skill, and no manga drawing experience, I drew on my experiences as a writer and a manga reader to design the workshop. I also used the knowledge gained from the incredibly informative and well done manga series Bakuman, which follows two high school students on a quest to be the best manga writing/drawing team of their time. The series is done by a best-selling author/illustrator combo, and they reveal the inside world of the manga publishing world. I find that when working on manga, most teens get stuck in the character designing phase, and just draw characters – this is great, but not productive as far as creating an actual manga.
So I worked from my prior knowledge and experience to come up with a step-by-step process for designing a manga story and drafting it into a storyboard. My workshop focused only on those activities, and attendees were encouraged to practice drawing on their own, with the assistance of drawing books and guides they could check out from the library. The activities detailed below are things that anyone can do, regardless of drawing ability. At the end of the workshop the participants will have a draft of a story that they can continue working on!
Step 1: Complete the Manga Story Worksheet that I designed. As the instructor I went through each section of the worksheet and defined terms and described what was required for each. If you’re unfamiliar with the sections or terms just leave a comment and I’ll answer, or look up definitions for unfamiliar terms somewhere like About.com’s Manga section, which is very helpful.
Step 2: Brainstorm sample chapter ideas with the participants. A lot of common manga tropes and plots can be used here. For example:
- It’s a boring summer vacation day and the characters must find something fun to do.
- A transfer student arrives in the main character’s class.
- The main character sleeps through their alarm.
- A character loses something very important to them.
- A character finds something important from their childhood.
- Someone from the MC’s past shows up unexpectedly.
- The main character gets sick.
- A new enemy appears.
- An old friend returns.
- A parent or friend is injured in an accident.
- The characters discover they have magical powers or superpowers.
Step 3: Draft a quick chapter sketch. This will be a one or two page layout of what happens in a single chapter (or half a chapter) of the story. See the Manga Story Example for an example of what this could look like. The sketches will be rough, if there are sketches at all. In my example, there are no drawings, and only text and lines are used to indicate what is happening in the story.
Step 4: Draft a detailed storyboard. This will be a more detailed version of the chapter sketch done in the previous step. Each page of the chapter will be drawn out on its own piece of paper, featuring panels, character sketches (preferably with little detail, so as not to distract from the plotting), and text bubbles. Again, see the Manga Story Example for what this might look like. This step could take the students some time to complete, so encourage them to take their work home and complete a storyboard on their own.
A page from the manga “Bakuman” by Takashi Obata