Show don’t tell.
How many times have we been told this as writing students, as writers? How many times have we said it to our students as teachers of writing?
If you think I would have internalized this rule by now, you — like me — would be wrong.
In comics, this should be a rule that doesn’t need saying. Should be. And maybe it is understood by all comics folk other than me. I’ve struggled with this one from the first comic I drew in that Brainery class three years ago. Why draw another picture — that’s so hard! — when I can just shove more text in next to the picture I’ve already drawn?
One of the first things Mat did was walk us through the opening panels of his graphic novel, Incognegro. Those images spoke volumes and needed not one word to make their point. I don’t pretend I’ll ever get to that place. I’m not even sure I want to — I like to talk too much for all that text-less-ness. But oh — such a level to aspire to!
I’m having a similar aspiration fantasy these days as I read (devour) Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s stunning Monstress series. The story and art of Monstress floor me. The sparing use of text amazes me. Amazes me. How can I know so much of this story with so little text to read?
This is the same fascination I have with Kawabata’s Palm-of-the-Hand Stories. So few words, so much said. I really don’t imagine scraping myself down to such pure essentials, but I can continue to admire that skill, can learn this craft better in the hope of getting closer to that level.
This week’s comics homework is to keep a diary, to draw five pages, each practicing a different comics relationship.*
Did you ever see the movie Bring on the Night? It’s a documentary about the making of Sting’s first solo album and its accompanying concert. There’s a moment where Sting says that everyone has three basic facial expressions, and he proceeds to demonstrate them … only to discover that he only has two. He kind of stutters to halt for a second then keeps on with the larger point he was trying to make.
That moment is always coming back to me. That moment is a prefect illustration of my response to seeing the assignment for this week’s class. There are, apparently, FOURTEEN possible relationships in comics, seven image relationships and seven text relationships. You guessed it: I pretty much have one of each. Seriously.
And now I have to do five pages — not panels, but PAGES — that showcase some of those other relationships?! Crazypants.
This, of course, brings us back to the show-don’t-tell dictum. The comics I’ve been looking at lately are definitely all about graphic relationships that are outside my wheelhouse.
So, I guess I know how this weekend’s down time will be spent. Does anyone have any tips for stepping out of one’s comfort zone? What do you do when you need to take on a task that feels beyond you?
It’s Slice of Life Story Challenge time! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!