Let me ask you to do something: imagine your room from when you were ten years old. What color were your sheets? The walls? Were you allowed to eat in your room? What sort of toys were on the ground (or neatly stored in their place you were a more organized kid than I was)? With a little thought, you could probably write a pretty accurate description. Here’s a fun twist: try drawing it. No matter how good an artist you are, working off a distant memory will never produce exactly what you remember. Moreover, people might not understand what they’re supposed to focus on if you provide too much information.
So converting the Literacy Narrative into a comic was a unique challenge. As a comic artist, I have to make choices about what moments to show and how to show them, not to mention what degree of truth I want to convey. Perhaps my search for the perfect book went on for months, but I don’t need the reader to know of every attempt, just a couple will give them all they need to know. And sure, my mom’s studio was cluttered and the computer was on the side, but the emotion I felt wouldn’t be echoed if I drew all those extra details. Drawing the room as bigger than it was, with a sole focus on the intimidating work station helped echo how big a deal it felt to me, instead of just showing a little kid wandering to her mom’s computer and typing away quietly. Exaggerating certain aspects helped my convey the truth inside my head, that subjective memory I’m trying to unwind, more accurately than if I tried to replicate this moment in the way a bystander might.
When I began drawing the comic it became less about remembering the experiences, I’d done that during the alphabetic text, but about picking which moments were most relevant and possible to replicate in an image. This makes me think that maybe when I turn back to my alphabetic text, I can do something similar: pick which moments are more important and think about how best to represent them to the reader in a way that will help them visualize and feel something similar to what I was when composing this project. Similarly, when creating a comic, it is inevitable that the reader will not always understand what you were going for, in fact they may take a completely different intention than what you may have intended. This applies to all writing. To art in general. It’s important, yes, to deliver your ideas in a clear way that will allow the reader to understand the backbone, the thesis, of your ideas without any trouble. But everything else, what they take away from it when they’ve finished, isn’t always up to you, and any attempt to control this will lead to frustration. If you create an experience, a thought process for someone to follow, it’s important to let them experience it in whatever way works for them.
Reading my peers’ comics made a lot of this evident. Each and every one of them had a different take on method of delivery and styles. When we workshopped storyboards, there were a lot of misunderstandings, but it helped us understand how to make our narratives clearer, then allow a little wiggle room in the discussion that would follow.
For example, my final page shows my eleven year old self gazing up at the computer screen in awe. Maybe some people would interpret that as fear or excitement or even reluctance. They’re different takes on the same image, but the backbone of the message remains: a small girl writing, really writing, for the first time.
I think that my comic demonstrates my process pretty accurately, and I’m very happy with the end result. It was a really good exercise in telling the same story in different mediums and watching it evolve. It kind of makes me want to write a story and adapt it to prose, poetry, then a comic, then a play, then a screenplay, and see how it shifts to adapt to each medium, and what I can learn about communication each time. All in all, I’d like to continue to use the tools of comics to help me pick my moments and words carefully, not say more than I need to, and leave some “blank space” for readers to let their imaginations do the work, always remembering that writing is a collaborative process between the writer and the reader.