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Many teen magazines carry photo-stories, usually on themes of romance or friendship. If you’re thinking of writing a photo-story you probably have a particular magazine in mind; in this case you’ll know the types of stories they want and how long they should be. As a first step contact the magazine in question and see if they’re interested in receiving ideas.

Writing tips

Keep it short
Remember that your biggest problem is space. All your dialogue has to fit into speech or thought bubbles, so keep it short or there won’t be room for the picture. As a rule there shouldn’t be more than thirty words of dialogue in a frame.

Don’t crowd
When you’re planning a story frame remember the photographer will have to leave empty space for the addition of speech or thought bubbles. Avoid having more than two characters speaking or thinking in a frame (even if they’re not saying much); if there are three or more it will be difficult to squeeze in all the bubbles you need. A rough drawing might help you judge how much space you’re likely to require.

Set the scene
Apart from speech and thought bubbles photo-stories also use panels: blocks of text in the top left-hand corner of the frame that introduce a location (‘At Karen’s house…’) or signal a time-break (‘Later…’). If there’s a significant change in location or jump in time use a panel to inform the reader.

Laying out the script

Exactly how you lay out your script isn’t important as long as everything is clearly presented, but do the following:

Give your story a title (preferably a short and memorable one).

Use a horizontal line to divide one frame’s text from another.

Number each frame.

Start each frame with a brief description of location, time, characters and action.

Where possible help identify roles/locations by making suggestions for visual clues (clothing, uniforms, signs etc).

Make sure you identify which dialogue is spoken and which is thought.

For example:

Laura and the Great Escape

Frame 1. It’s morning. Laura and Sue are walking along a suburban road on their way to school. They are both in uniform and carrying school bags. Laura is also carrying a hamster cage full of animal bedding.

Panel: Monday morning…

Sue: How did you enjoy looking after the school hamster over the weekend?

Laura: It was great…

Laura: (Thinks)…Oh no. How am I going to tell Miss Carter I lost it!


Frame 2. A schoolroom. Laura and Sue are speaking to a biology teacher (Miss Carter) wearing a white lab-coat. The hamster cage is standing on a table.

Panel: Later in class…

Miss Carter: Thanks for looking after Sparky, Laura. Was he any trouble?

Laura: No, Miss. You wouldn’t even know he was there (Gulp).



Some photo-story writers present their ideas as illustrated storyboards, but unless you’re a good artist you’d be better off developing the story rather than trying to portray it in sketches. As long as your script clearly describes the action a photographer and art director should have no trouble in deciphering it.

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