My experience as a Graphic Narrative Author

TPB1988's picture

When we first began to analyze graphics narratives as a class we had many questions about the genre as a whole. How should we read them? What are thought bubbles? W hat is the point behind thought bubbles? Why are there captions? Why is it in black and white or in color? The list of questions seemed to be infinite. After reading Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and Neil Gaiman's A Game of You  we still had many question left unanswered. Three weeks ago I decided that I was weary of all these questions and frankly, I wanted some answers. For my final project I have chosen to stop wondering why or how these graphic narrative authors write or draw a certain way and embark on a journey where I will become a graphic narrative author myself. This paper will be my attempt at answering our many questions about graphic narratives.

                Becoming an author was much less of a hassle than I imagined. I said “I will now write a graphic narrative which categorizes me in the genre of an author” and POOF,  I was an author. At the beginning of the process I was certain that I wanted to convey an experience in Literary Kinds which was pivotal and in representative of what I learned in the class. The most vivid memory was without a doubt the first time Anne announced we would be writing our papers and posting them online. Now I am usually a calm and collected person, but I was have a mental breakdown at the thought of having my writing, my own personal words, accessible to the online world. Then, as if someone pulled the rug from under me, I realized I had no idea where to begin. All I had were more questions!

                Am I more of a Satrapi author or a Gaiman author? How do I feel about color? How many panels do I need to convey my experience? Then I had an even bigger question that needed answering. How can I make a graphic novel if I can't draw?! After taking many many breathes I came to the conclusion that I am neither Satrapi, nor Gaiman. I am my own author and it is not possible to express one's own experience through another person's style. The first answer in my journey was that content affects style and style can never be duplicated. The differences between Persepolis and A Game of You can be attributed to the distinct and dissimilar storyline of each author. Satrapi was writing a biography while Gaiman was creating his own world. I, on the other hand, had my own adventure to write.  Ironically, the fact that I was artistically handicapped had no effect whatsoever on my graphic narrative. Even if my images were slightly less than accurate, it felt dishonorable to have someone else draw TPB1988. Even after I remember my lack of drawing skills, the thought of using stock images from magazines or Google was absolutely out of the question. Assuming someone did resemble me, it would never be me. At that point I gained a certain respect for Satrapi that I did not always have. I created my own path through her guidance and I even drew my birthmark as well.

                Unlike Satrapi, I did not want to have an entire black and white graphic narrative, but a massive amount of color similar to Gaiman did not suit my personality. As I looked back on my experience I noticed that some parts of my memory were very clear and easy to remember and I chose to make those in color. Once it came down to actually creating the project I truly learned the difficulty of being a graphic narrative author. A normal author tools such as words, italicizing, metaphors, similes, anecdotes etc. A graphic narrative author has those tools in addition to thought bubbles, captions, images, color etc. From my own experience I can say that thinking of a way to properly represent a particular experience with so many tools at my disposal was much more challenging and time consuming than simply sitting down and writing (no offense to authors). Although many less words are required in graphic narratives, the lack of space for writing along with images, color, and amount of panels forces, I mean literally forces, the author to be creative. The thought that a graphic narrative is a simplified novel with pictures could not be more insulting to me now that I am a graphic narrative author myself. Before my project I never assumed creating a graphic novel would be easy, or easier than writing a paper, but never could I have imagined that graphic narratives require more thought and imagination than even some of the best fiction novels today. Presently, my theory is that a graphic narrative has many more layers than a book, or a paper, and therefore requires more mental activity to read. Not only does one have to consider the writing itself, but also the colors, the images, the panels, the amount of panels, the thought bubbles, the caption, where they are placed, why they are placed etc. Absolutely nothing on a page of a graphic novel is done by accident (trust me, I am an author now, I know these things). As a result of having so many tools, a graphic narrative author places more in their novels than most other authors. As a reader one must carefully focus on the whole, then on each panel, and consider every word, color, and section for it's purpose. On my own personal graphic narrative I chose the amount of panels and the size for a particular purpose as well as my use of thought bubbles versus normal speech bubbles etc. although I will leave it up to you, the reader, the discover the why's. At first glance a graphic narrative might appear to be a simple read but if one reads it and it is just as easy as one thought it would be, than I can confidently say that they read it wrong. There is a science to reading a graphic narrative, one that requires more precision and skill than one would normally use for a novel or anything other type of book. Presently, graphic narratives are gaining popularity in the literary world and will mostly likely in a few years, with the help of excellent authors such as Neil Gaiman and Marjane Satrapi, gain the respect and recognition they truly deserve.

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