This week I learned you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy comic books. . . er, graphic novels.
I’m feverishly working on a complete make-over of my book on dialogue for writers. The new book, Dialogue Mastery for Writers: Creating Powerful Dialogue in Fiction and Nonfiction is in the proofing stage, yet I keep adding new material.
This week I explored the world of comic books and graphic novels, and then wrote a chapter on creating dialogue for the action packed world of superheroes and super-villains. As a kid who grew up loving comic books, I have no gripes with this genre. Comics are definitely lightweight reading, but now, calling them graphic novels makes this genre seem downright artistic.
As author Daniel Raebum wrote: “I snicker at the neologism, first for its insecure pretension—the literary equivalent of calling a garbage man a ‘sanitation engineer’—and second because a ‘graphic novel’ is in fact the very thing it is ashamed to admit: a comic book, rather than a comic pamphlet or comic magazine.” (^ Raeburn, Daniel. Chris Ware(Monographics Series), Yale UniversityPress, 2004, p. 110. ISBN 978-0-300-10291-8.)
Writer Neil Gaiman, responding to a claim that he does not write comic books but graphic novels, said the commenter “meant it as a compliment, I suppose. But all of a sudden I felt like someone who’d been informed that she wasn’t actually a hooker; that in fact she was a lady of the evening.” (Bender, Hy (1999). The Sandman Companion. Vertigo. ISBN 978-1-56389-644-6)
In order to write this chapter, I learned to format scripts for graphic novels, which turns out to be great fun. I can’t think of a better way to learn the art of writing no-frills dialogue. Graphic novel characters don’t stand around dithering and discussing: They act. And I love the idea of writing sounds that match the action, such as: POW! SQUISH DRIP. . . BANG! and ZAP!
Unfortunately, my artist abilities don’t stretch far enough to draw a book unless all the characters are flowers, clouds, and trees. Perhaps a talking flower? Drone clouds? Ent-like trees? Anything is possible in this genre.
My new favorite is the SAGA series by author Brian Vaughan and illustrator Fiona Staples. The artwork is magnificent, the characters well developed, and the central plot keeps you wantimg more. And, of course, Vaughan’s dialogue rings true. He even tosses in humor from time to time.