Young Writers Conference: 45 Minute Comic Strip Challenge

Category: Writing

On Friday the 19 April, we had the pleasure of running a workshop at the Young Writers Conference organised by Scottish Book Trust and The Mitchell Library as part of the Aye Write! Festival. The workshop was designed to be creative and fun and to guide the young writers in the creation of a giant comic strip. We were very excited at the prospect but realised that doing it in 45 minutes was going to be a challenge!

Even seasoned graphic novelists can struggle to create a strip. A classic comic strip is like a great pop song – it seems effortless. Peanuts or Calvin and Hobbes are examples: each retains a timeless aspect while bringing a whole world to life. 

The great thing about comics is there are no rules. Combining words and pictures to tell stories leaves plenty of room for experimentation. There is a rich history of this in the medium, from Winsor McCay to Chris Ware. More than anything else it is exciting.

Our plan was to create something fun with the group. Give them a glimpse of the comic creator’s world and make sure they all got involved and enjoyed their experience.

students drawing

Preparing comic panels in advance to use as templates seemed like a good idea, saving a few precious minutes, but essentially we were relying on the participants not being too inhibited, coming up with something and rendering it quickly.

The young writers’ enthusiasm was immediately apparent and they were great fun to work with: eager and attentive.

After a whirlwind introduction we organised the pupils into five groups. Step one: everyone created a simple character based on simple shapes. Then each group nominated a character or two and we held a democratic vote.

Next: to think of a world for the character and a basic story plot. Ideas came thick and fast. Sandra drew the suggestions on a flipchart as the story emerged. We quickly established a rhythm; a comic factory and production line was put in place. Each group was assigned a panel to draw based on Sandra’s roughs and votes were taken on title suggestions. Minimal background detail meant that the comic strip challenge had a chance of reaching a successful conclusion.

finished comic
Time pressure mounted and everyone in the groups got involved. Several separate pupils' hands can be seen busy at work in the picture above right.

The Vernal Equinox strip was completed as the clock struck four. We would like to congratulate all the young people involved and say thank you to them and to The Mitchell Library and the Scottish Book Trust for inviting us and for organising everything so smoothly.




Metaphrog are Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers.

Together, they have been creating comics, graphic novels and illustrations since 1996, gradually building a loyal following and receiving critical acclaim worldwide.