So if you have been here recently you will know that I have just finished my first ever graphic novel and it was pretty good! I have quite a bit to ‘learn’ through that first chapter, but wow how it flew. After completing my first graphic novel, I suddenly had an appreciation for how much dialogue plays a role in story telling, especially in relation to descriptive elements. So, I learnt four key things!
1. How to read a graphic novel…
This sounds stupid I know, but like manga (something I have only ever looked at the cover of), you read it slightly differently that a normal novel. We should all understand the storyboard concept, each frame represents something happening in the story. Well the same principle applies to graphic novel, there is an array of different shaped panels ‘tetris’d’ into a page and you generally start at the top left hand corner, reading across then down. It can get a little confusing when speech bubbles leak from one box to another (we’ll get to speech in a sec.) but after a little patience I caught up with this skill.
See its not just reading from left to right, you have to flow with the images; where in a book the words are arranged neatly in little lines, in graphic novels one ‘line’ takes up a third of the page and may have a foot poking into the line below. Something I struggled with was not flowing into the image below and missing panels, only catching them in my peripheral vision. I found I was jumping panels, because my eyes were used to switching from left to right at the same speed as I read.
You have to slow it down a little and look at each image because you don’t know what you’ll miss!
2. Graphic novel dialogue
So, whether you are a reader or a writer, we have an appreciation of dialogue and how it can move a story forward. In novels, it’s way too easy to have paragraphs of speech or paragraphs of description and using dialogue to break it up. But something I noticed when considering the speech used within the graphic novel…
It’s only a few words at a time. No seriously. Its more shouts of annoyance, or battle-cry… depending on the type of scene. I think throughout the entire novel, I only saw one full sentence used during dialogue, and there are more broken fragments of dialogue and some creative uses of punctuation.
3. The purpose of description…
When you go from reading description, where the description guides how you see the world but in the end, its your decision what the place looks like; seeing the worlds already created on the page can be slightly disorientating. Although it was very weird to start with, I soon got used to seeing the snippets of the world, rather than (in the case of most high fantasy) huge descriptions of the intricate workings of the world. In graphic novels you literally get the description (image) needed for the scene, rather than mentions of other places and the workings of the world, meaning everything is much more concise. Something that takes some getting used to.
4. Plot Vs Character Driven
For majority of written novels, there is definitely a need to have a balance between character and plot driven elements; we see it being used throughout planning (consider the spine method of outlining) and is often a form of criticism when a story doesn’t meet the expectations of the reader. However, I found that graphic novels lend themselves to plot development easier that character development.
This is for one main reason, an image of a character having an internal discussion with themselves, a method often used for exploring character development, wouldn’t really work for the format. There is development, but it is more subtly explored, you have to understand the characters more to see the development in their choices and responses to certain situations. Where you can see the development in a written novel by the internal monologue, the thought processes alter, and realisation tends to be stated; in the graphic novel format you are forced to really focus and learn about the characters.
So which graphic novel did I learn all this from?
Saga Volume 1 // Brian K Vaughan
From what I learnt from this, is that it’s a Sci-Fi with some adult content and a whole host of very interesting characters. This is the first volume in a series of graphic novels, and there is a lot of set up, fluttering from one point of view to another; with seemingly no order, there were a few pages from the main point of view and then cut up with a double spread (and sometime even one side of paper). Unlike in a written novel, you can instantly see the change in P.O.V because the main character is almost always in the frame; which helped with the understanding of how they could possibly have so many character changes in one chapter.
I really enjoyed the first instalment of the series, I think it set up a lot of questions, characters, and conflict for the remaining volumes. I plan on picking these up (when I can afford them… because graphic novels are expensive- and I can see why!) and slowly building my collection of graphic novels, I have the start of two series (including Rat Queens) so I think I will be starting with those.
I do recommend this series, there is some adult content (really they didn’t exactly hide it, it starts on the cover). The graphics are extremely beautiful and flow wonderfully. I hope that I can continue reading graphic novels and be able to do a recommended post for you soon!
Do you have any recommendations for graphic novels? Let me know your favourites in the comments!
Until next time my friends,