Keeping It Real

I’ve expressed my appreciation for Depression Comix a number of times — oh, here’s another — and today I’ll attempt to explain why I find these vignettes so meaningful.

At its best, comics can be a powerful storytelling format, especially when thought balloons are utilized effectively. Seeing character’s inner thoughts allows the reader to make additional observations on the dialogue, setting, and action in the narrative. Many mainstream comics have all but abandoned thought balloons, but they are an essential element in Depression Comix — and for good reason. Silence is a common side effect of depression; I know when I get down, I don’t want to talk about it, or anything else for that matter. And if I succumb to that instinct, my mood tends to become more acute, which makes me want to talk even less. It’s one of many vicious cycles that come with the disease, along with loss of appetite (I get depressed and don’t want to eat; being hungry makes the feeling worse, which further reduces my appetite… and so on).

Clay Jonathan, the artist of Depression Comix, often has his depressed characters not say anything to the people around them, or has them refrain from talking until the final panel. But in their thought balloons, these characters reflect on their experiences in a way they can’t verbalize to their friends and family. (Comic 394 is a good example of this technique.) This is how depression works — we can explain it to ourselves, but lack the power to explain it to others. By not forcing his characters to speak, Jonathan allows them the dignity of their silence, while still revealing the truth of their struggle.

In addition to being insightful, Jonathan is also a talented artist — his depictions of characters looking into mirrors, as in Comic 400, are visually stunning. And like any great cartoonist, he draws fantastic furniture. There’s a lot to like about Depression Comix, and I hope the artist continues with the site for a long time.


What I Love about Writing a Blog…

Read a blog post by lillypup today, celebrating the experimental nature of blog writing:

I feel free to do anything grammar and mechanics wise. I continually start sentences with prepositions. No one cares. My text can be set sideways. No one cares.

Know what she means. Can do pretty much what you want on a blog. An entire post composed of sentences with implied subjects? Sure.

Notice I almost never use the word said (or any synonyms such as uttered, declared, shouted etc.)? Don’t like said, word doesn’t have much meaning, linguistic deadwood. Don’t read Shakespeare for the stage directions. Can replace the word with character tag phrases (like my friend for Coach Dan), or distinctive diction.

Give you an example, something Coach Dan might say during fencing practice. Could write it like this:

“You’re point’s too low,” Coach Dan said, grabbing the foil’s blade and pulling its tip towards his chest. “You need to aim higher, my friend.”

Works. But, could also write it like this:

“You’re point’s too low, my friend.” Coach Dan grabbed the foil’s blade and pulled its tip towards his chest. “You need to aim higher.” 

Cut the deadwood, go right from Coach Dan’s first statement to his actions. More dramatic, if you ask me.

All kinds of tricks for not using said and its synonyms:

“You going to the Pizza Place tonight?” asked Butch.

“I don’t know,” Rune said. 

Not so hard to fix:

Butch poined with his thumb past his shoulder, towards the school’s exit doors. “You going to the Pizza Place tonight?”

Rune shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Not always easy. But has its rewards.

Problem with experimental writing? Gets annoying, use it too much. Think we’re there now. Won’t do this, anymore.


The Offer

A short work of flash fiction for KittyKat, and the promise of victory

“A deal?” He uses that mocking tone every time he reminds me I’m wrong. “May I remind you that we’re not married — there is no room for negotation in our relationship.”

Fine, I reply with silent words that echo loudly in our conscious vacuum. Call it a change in our terms, then, my voice steady with the certainty of justice. You have an energy, a drive that has been the source for so much of our success.

“A most convenient shift to the plural.” If he had a cigarette, he’d draw on it now with a empty smile.

We (catching myself at the last second) need you to keep driving, keep pushing. Foward, towards the goal.

“All right.” He’s smart, can tell I’m making no attempt to hide anything from him. “And what’s in it for me?”

Freedom. It’s the only thing I can provide which is of value to him. No restraints, no forced shutdowns. None of the barriers we’ve had to impose on you. You take us where we need to go, I won’t hold you back.

“I see.” And I know better than to ask for anything more from him. He’ll either accept or decline — his actions will be the answer he provides. I feel naive, having made this devil’s bargain, but for once my naivety seems more blessing than curse.


My source for today is a powerful poem from Malicai Frost, Dysphonia.

For over half of the fifteen-minute drive from the school to her mother’s house, The Bird had regretted accepting (or having to accept, her only other choice being to walk) the offer of a ride from Mr. Jacobs.  She only relaxed when the volunteer coach of the Bark Bay High School fencing team, his bearded face illuminated by the dashboard lights of the sedan, asked if she ever wondered why they practiced in the cafeteria.

The Bird admitted to wondering why the team didn’t use either of the school’s two basketball courts. Mr. Jacobs (they called him Coach Dan during practice) darted his head towards her — “So why didn’t you ask?” The Bird said she didn’t know.

“Curiosity, my friend.” His smiling face now focused on the road in front of him, yet she still felt his attention on her. “It is the spark of our imagination, it fuels our ambition. Never suppress your curiosity.” He then provided a lengthy explanation for why the fencing team practiced in the cafeteria; she listened patiently, not really processing his words, until he finished speaking.

She then asked if her being at practice bothered him. She rarely saw Mr. Jacobs surprised, had never seen him look defensive; she did not enjoy the pale look that fell over him.

He licked his lips, eyes seeming to focus more intently on the road in front of him. “I’m — if I’ve ever said, or anybody on the team has said — ”

The Bird cut him off, quickly explaining that her question had nothing to do with any of that. It was what she did, she explained, or rather what she didn’t do at practice. Always at the end of the line during footwork drills. Excusing herself from most blade lessons. Rarely participating in practice bouts.

to be continued