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Old October 25 2008, 04:18 PM   #23
Andrew Harris
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Re: Graphic Novelizations of Trek Novels

Christopher RE: #18--you're taking this much too personally.

Ferd Burfel wrote: View Post
I'm not a professional, but I've written comics and comic scripts before. I don't see it as slumming either. But to try and say it is completely different from writing a novel is kinda weird to me. Obviously both are unique with unique challenges, but writing a story or a story outline doesn't change radically from a novel to a comic. I respect and know writers of both mediums, but that doesn't mean one cannot do the other. I've had the honor (in my opinion it was an honor) to talk to Kevin Smith a few times when he was taking over Green Arrow a while back. He was also working on screenplays at the time. I asked him which one was harder or if he had trouble going back and forth and he answered that neither was harder and it was to a large degree the same coin but different sides. The analogy with the piano and guitar seems a bit off, because both comics and novels are in the same group. Piano and harp maybe, or guitar and violin. Both involve writing and fleshing out a story. The scales are the same, but obviously the fine tuning and WHAT you are playing are different. I don't think they are as far apart as they are being depicted as.

Go back and read your message again--and you'll see that you're exactly making the point I had discussed: presuming that comics and prose writing are so similar as to simply require "fine tuning" between the two.

I didn't want to parse Christopher's previous words too exactingly, since I think he was being more casual than precise when he said this, but comics aren't "stories told visually"; they're visual stories. And, before you think that difference is purely semantic, consider a story primarily of two people having a conversation. You can obviously depict that visually, but it won't be a "visual story".

I once saw a great pitch for a story of Spock and Data having a 3-D chess match in their heads, simply calling out the moves to each other as they discussed the nature of life, death and sacrifice. (Data had contacted Spock by viewscreen after his cat Spot almost died saving one of her kittens, remembering what Spock had done at the end of TWOK.)

A great idea, full of metaphor (chess sacrifice), foreshadowing (Data's sacrifice at the end of NEM) and the philosophical differences between a person interested in enhancing his logic and a machine interested in enhancing his humanity.

The makings of an outstanding prose story, right? But as a was a couple of issues worth of two guys, playing chess.

And not even real chess--imaginary chess.

By viewscreen.

I encouraged the writer to depict the story more visually--flashbacks, some sort of action interspersed with the conversation, whatever he wanted--but he felt that would be "blunt" and cheapen the narrative. C'est la vie.

This is, of course, an atypical example, but comic book writing is rife with these kind of differences with prose on virtually every page and in almost every panel. Economy of dialogue, issue pacing, page cliffhangers, page-turn reveals, character blocking, panel-sequence techniques, miniseries vs. ongoing story arc construction, eye-movement composition, page-unit composition, text and visual transitions...the list goes on and on.

Most prose writers who want to "dabble" in comics probably don't even know what half those things are--and most readers probably don't know either, because they're not supposed to. You want to give them economy of dialogue without them realizing that they're only getting 35 words per panel. You want to move their eye around the page without them realizing that they're being intentionally led. You want to have them look at the characters in a panel and not realize that they're positioned a certain way primarily to make sure that their word balloons don't criss-cross or land on top of someone's face. And so on.

Can prose writers learn these different processes? Well, duh--sure, and many do all the time. But they learn them by, you know, learning them,
which usually involves actually writing them. Not "dabbling", or thumbing through a published script and thinking that you've got it, or even reading an entire book on how to do it. You can read a book on how to drive, but it's not really going to teach you how to actually drive.

Or, perhaps I can summarize it this way: If you were a book editor, and a comics writer came to you and said: "I don't have any pitches or samples, but I've read a book on how to write a novel, and years ago I dabbled for a couple of pages, they must be really similar, and I know that Peter David does both, so could you challenge me with an assignment?"--would you say "Yes"?

Because, if you wouldn't, then that's exactly the kind of diminished perception of comic books that I'm talking about--since those are the traits that people here are saying would qualify a prose writer to work in comics.
Andrew Steven Harris
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