Friday, December 30, 2005

Delayed a day.

Ayup. It happens.

Speaking of which, I've been looking through my old notes. I mean really old notes, from grade school and junior high.

It strikes me that I have no talent for art. Hopefully, I have gained enough skill to offset the utter lack of talent I showed. Art has always been a way to enhance my storytelling, rather than something that should stand on its own, and it's always served that purpose okay.

Speaking of art enhancing storytelling, when I don't have a computer I start dabbling in art more intensively. As I haven't had a computer for a week, I've done quite a bit of dabbling, and polished an interesting storytelling technique for comics. But its one of those things that will never go anywhere. Why?

Well, without going into details as to the exact back history of the short comics, the technique uses storytellers. Characters, either in the story or telling the story, become the artist and narrator. You can tell which character is telling it - and what their views are - by the artistic techniques (and the artistic license) shown on the page.

For example, you might have an eight-year-old-boy and a fourteen-year-old-girl telling the story. Maybe it's mostly the fourteen-year-old-girl's show, but the boy occasionally butts in. And the listener - perhaps their mother - occasionally chimes in with guesses and calling lies. Each of them has a different artistic style. Maybe the girl draws with a more manga-ie style, the boy with a simplified Calvin-n-Hobbs style, and the mom with, I dunno, Chinese brushwork. Similarly, the coloration is different and the dialogue is notably tilted towards the way the author talks. The young boy's dialogue bits, whether they are coming out of his mouth or someone else's, are simpler and clearer. The daughter tends to make adults say "blah blah blah" a lot and skips around with Ritalin-kid pacing. The mom tends towards purple prose and sedate pacing, prompting the children to cut back in to speed it up.

This sounds a bit daunting in verbiage, but when done on paper it flows quite nicely. So long as each "voice" is very distinct, it has a very intuitive feel and a clear effect on the story. The tint of each storyteller tends to color the story in a way which makes you think about each piece of the story from more than one angle. It's an interesting experience to write, and theoretically it should be an interesting experience to read.

There are two "unfortunately"s. One, not having a computer, nothing is scanned or ready to be shown. Two, the method requires storytellers with very disparate worldviews. You can use it for similar worldviews - like, say, the family tale above. Or a bullshitting contest involving a frat party. But there is a nagging urge to take it further, and this all but dooms the technique.

You want to see your authors react to another author's injection. The greater the tension between the authors, and the greater the distance between their perspectives, the more powerful the technique is. This leads naturally to the inclusion of dramatically different characters. Like, say, a jungle native and a girl from the future.

This sounds great, right? Acceptable, at least. Except one problem: your signature. You, the author of the authors, are stapling your name to theirs. So if you draw a very different character, people reading will naturally assume it is your worldview, or at least part of it.

So, what happens when you put in a jungle native, who tells the story his way? Well, you get one hell of a nice lense to focus the story through. You also get a bunch of naked people and a tendency towards basic masculine story arcs involving hunting, women, and brinksmanship. How does it look when someone is reading this through their own cultural filter? They come across pages and pages of naked people, crudely or elegantly drawn, it doesn't matter. Their natural assumption? "Oh, he's obsessed with naked people. Moreover, his plots are childish and developmentally stunted." Not, "oh, that story lense requires simple plots and naked people."

I use the "naked people" example because, here in America, they're the biggest attention-getters. They're probably the first issue you'll hit when you start drawing teenage or ancient culture viewpoints.

But it is a mild example. What if you put in a Mongol warrior vis-a-vis Genghis Khan? Suddenly, you've added rapine, murder, and torture to your repetoire. People will read your comic, and they'll be affected, all right. And the next time they see you, they'll think, "he's a sick fuck."

You can water it down. Make an R-rated set of lenses. But that weakens the power of the technique immensely. It is untrue, the psychology is unbelievable, and suddenly you've rendered a lense nothing more than a curiosity, rather than a valuable viewpoint.

Presumably, other people have discovered this technique and its inherent excesses. Some people touch it lightly, like Princess Bride, Hero, Memento, or True Lies. I cannot think of someone who used it to its full extent, however. Why? I'm not sure. Not all artists are worried about people calling them sick fucks. Is there something else wrong with the idea?

Anyway, it does make for an interesting set of comics. I'll try to draw some which are post-worthy.

5 comments:

Chill said...

This technique was also used in a Powerpuff Girls episode (I watch cartoons, so what?) where each of the three girls were trying to relate what happened that day, and the three had dramatically different art styles used to convey their world view. I feel like it was used elsewhere but I can't recall at the moment.

Patrick Dugan said...

Psychonauts, which I'm currently playing, does this well in terms of graphics, garnish writing and level design, though not to the extremes of completely different art styles. Still, that sounds very interesting, I bet you could do that in an interactive storytelling environment down the road, once a path to that level of adaptive content has been forged.

Which brings me to my next point, you might not have much art talent, but you are a hell of a technical talent.

BTW, you ought to get in on The Escapist. In addition to the darknet article I suggested to you, theres an issue called "Method Gamers" about roleplayers, and an issue on retro games for which you could do an essay on No One Lives Forever. If you contribute enough they put a link to your blog on theirs, and you get 25 cents a word and mad props. Furthermore, if you do start writing for the magazine, it would make sense for me to omit you from my article on indies, and instead you could do an essay in the same issue on PAC, right as The Machine City is coming out.

Craig Perko said...

Patrick: Where are you getting this "upcoming issues" info? Give me the link, I'll look into it.

Adaptive multi-author stories are definitely possible, but are currently beyond my capability.

Chill: PPG is one of my favorite modern children's series, along with Teen Titans. They are both excellent for most of the same reasons - if you haven't watched Teen Titans, you may want to try it on for size.

You're right, there was at least one PPG episode like that. It's also used in Teen Titans about the same amount.

Patrick Dugan said...

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/page/contact

click on the top button which says "editorial calender 1/06-07/06" and download the excel file

BTW Happy New Year!
Its gonna be a good one

Patrick Dugan said...

whoops, "contact" at the end of the address, needs a "t", which I left off