Other Sources of Inspiration – Graphic Novels

This will be a biweekly thread in which I talk about different things that help give me a creative “push.” In an effort to share media and ideas that are extremely cool to me with you, it’s also a way for me to make sense of why I like the things I like. We’re both learning here.

I’ve heard from certain musicians, artists, and even writers that they try to create their work in a vacuum in order to avoid having what they do possibly mimic anything that is already out there. The theory in this, is that they could unconsciously be influenced by the media they consume and end up being derivative. That’s something that no person who wants to create something original wants to be labeled with.

If that idea works for you go ahead but I completely disagree. In some capacity, we’ve all been influenced by something. There’s no way to not receive some type of stimuli in your life that could tweak (even if it seems insignificant) your way of thinking or perceiving.

That brings me to today and the subject of the first ‘Other Sources of Inspiration’ thread: Graphic Novels.

My current list of graphic novels I plan on diving into. Yes, the books are balanced on a toilet. The bathroom had the best lighting at the time. No judgement!

Let me start by saying that yes, I do believe that comic books and graphic novels have a place in the conversation of storytelling (regardless of how some view them). Just like television and music they can convey whatever you want them to. The reason why graphic novels have left an impact on me is the notion of marrying the idea of telling a self contained story while delivering it in a visual way. This is why I am separating them from comic books and will speak on that in another post (although they are related). Think about that for a second.

You’re adding a completely new element in the mix. When you write prose, the reader has your words to go on, but even with very well written work an element of their imagination is at work to project your overall vision into something they can understand. Graphic novels produce a visual representation of what should happen on the page; and while the reader will sometimes make a leap of logic in things that happen such as:

  • Adding fluidity to scenes that have conflict since they’re static pages
  • Thinking on how a character moves
  • Considering how the character reacted after that scene transitioned from them to someone else
  • Etc.

You are still presented with a visual story; and how well the writer and artist (sometimes the same person) work together to get across that narrative varies.

Some of my favorite stories of all time are graphic novels. Long running series like Starman (an amazingly grounded superhero story that takes a backseat to tell an even better tale about family, coming to terms with adulthood, and accepting responsibility), Transmetropolitan (a look at a perverse future through the eyes of a Gonzo journalist with few redeeming qualities), and Y the Last Man (a political science fiction story chronicling the life of a boy who must live in the world as the only male and view how society changes) all had premises that drew me in and kept me engaged. It’s also important to note that all three of those stories started out as single issue comic books that were then collected into trade paperbacks and that is how I read them (once again, graphic novels and comics are related).

I plan on going in more depth later in future posts, highlighting stories that had serious impact on me for a myriad of reasons, positive and negative. But the big takeaway that I gained throughout the years of continuing to read graphic novels is that there is no tried and true formula to telling a great story. With good execution, you will engage the reader and they will be along for the ride with you until the end. If I can get someone to feel the same way about one of my stories, then maybe I’m going down the right path.

Author: Mr. Nifty

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