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images and words (10-26-1)

I was thinking about the art for my comic book today on my way to the bank. It occurred to me how minimalist it is. I knew already how simple the art work is, basic black and white line drawings, almost no shading, no odd perspectives or anything, but it's nice to remind myself of such things quite specifically sometimes, to remind myself why I?m doing it how I?m doing it.

In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud covered something quite simple about the artwork in things like comic books, or animated movies or what have you. The simpler the drawing, the easier it is for the reader to get pulled in, the more complex and realistic, the more the reader is separated from the art. Both ways of doing things can accomplish similar things though. A simple drawing, like a stick figure with dots for eyes can draw a reader in, have them identify themselves with this generic image, get them inside the story, make them think about what the character's doing as if they are that character. Something more complex, more realist, can make them pull back and contemplate things from outside, find meaning overall. And, of course there are many ways to blur the lines between these two things.

The thing I got to thinking about was the vital difference between the almost completely visual communication in movies and television and the less visual communication of novels, of prose. So often, a novel can have much more resonance for its reader than any movie can ever have for its viewer. And, that visual identification McCloud talks about explains something that is rather obvious, so obvious maybe that some people don't bother to think about it. When forced to work for the story, as we are while reading a novel, having to use our own imagination to get the images, our own minds to connect the dots, we are pulled in, made a part of the story, made to identify with the characters, shoved right into the middle each twist and turn of plot. When climaxes come, we're right there with the protagonists, living on the tension they are.

Of course, an aside, this can work against itself at times. Your average person doesn't want to identify with some characters. So, writing villains can be tricky. And writing antiheroes can be even trickier. Making a generally despicable character the protagonist can push away just as many readers as it can pull in. Take for example one of my favorite novels, Vladimir Nabakov's Lolita. Critics and discerning readers can identify the great writing, the complexities of being inside someone's head so much that you can understand even their more horrible actions. But, it can also be so easy to think, I don't want to be in Humbert Humbert's head. I don't want to be inside the mind of such a man that would involve himself in an obsessive love affair with a girl who is not just illegally underage, but also barely even pubescent. You take your chances with a protagonist like that. You gamble on your writing ability.

Now, back to the subject at hand. Watching a movie, we've got our cast. It's specific. In fact, you probably know a few of the faces from other movies. Their persona from previous movies and from outside the movies influences it a bit, to be sure. But, the key is, there isn't so much left to the imagination in the movies, especially these days with state of the art special effects. If the film is done well, then we can be sucked in, sure. But, it's not the same as with a book. Less time invested, less imagination needed, and the images are more realist, separating us one step from the story automatically.

Of course, there are always exceptions.

But, as a writer, and currently working on a story that combines images and words, sometimes more one than the other but often equally, a balance must be struck. Sometimes, the images should be simpler, letting the reader fall into the page, hear the words being spoken, think of their own response to a question, scoff at the preposterousness or be impressed by the brilliance of an idea as if they're right there in the panel. And, sometimes, the images need to get more detailed, the words more abstract or absent. A picture can, afterall, tell a thousand words, and usually tells many many more if done right.