Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Understanding Comics and a Question about Visualization

One of the books I'm reading right now is Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. I mentioned it last week, and now I thought I'd say more about it.

The book is really a graphic book technically. It's written with words and pictures, just like a comic book. However, the subject is really quite academic. Scott McCloud is discussing the comics as a serious art and trying to reach some understanding about comics and where they fit as an art form.

One of the concepts he has been talking about that I find interesting is closure. Closure is the idea that our mind can finish an idea that is suggested to us through words and pictures. One example he uses is one frame of a comic strip that has an open eye. In the next frame, the eye is closed. When the reader sees these two frames in sequence, he makes the assumption that the strip showed an eye closing, based on his knowledge of what closing an eye looks like it. He explains that reader's mind does this is much more complex situations as well. He then suggests that even though comics is a visual art, between the frames the rest of a reader's senses are allowed free reign. We use our imagination to fill in the gaps between each frame and understand what is happening in the comic.

I don't know a lot about comics, but this idea made me think of the ways reader's of regular literature use their imagination and mind to "fill in gaps." Good writers certainly appeal to all five of our senses, but as readers we still create visual images of the text we are reading, usually based on our own experience.

This brings me to a question I'd like to ask anyone who wants to answer. My question is: When you are reading, do you ever visualize scenes happening in places that have actually existed in your life?

In other words, as we read we tend to see scenes in our minds. I know I do. And I also know that with some books I actually picture scenes happening in places that I have known. Often these places are from my childhood. For instance, I see all the neighborhood scenes of To Kill a Mockingbird (oh I love that book) happening in the neighborhood I spent most of my childhood in. The Finch house is my old house. When I first read Wuthering Heights, I imagined some of the scenes happening in the the kitchen of my old house. However, once I saw the Ang Lee (I think) movie version that location has changed into a scene more like the movie.

So, when you are reading do you ever visualize scenes happening in places that are actually a part of your life? Why do you think we do that?

Or is it just me?


xicanti said...

What an interesting question! I'm very much a visual reader, and I know I must have done this, but I can't think of any specific examples that relate to place. I do sometimes visualize characters as people I know, though. For example, I have a young friend named Jessie. She was five when I first met her, and had the prettiest curly blonde hair. She looked just like a little angel, but she acted like a little devil. Whenever I reread Interview With the Vampire, I visualize Claudia as Jessie.

Colleen said...

Xicanti- Your response really interested me. Your example of Jessie/Claudia was great. I realized that I have never seen a character in a book as someone I know. Characters in books are always kind of vague outlines for me.

Literary Feline said...

Understanding Comics sounds like an interesting book. One my husband and I might both enjoy.

I do visualize what I read. I think it's natural to add familiar bits of scenery or even people in when reading if only because we visualize, in part, what we know and are familiar with. I hope I said that right! I tend to think it works the same for dreaming on a biological level-but then, I'm probably getting too technical there. :-)

On another note, I do remember once watching a movie that I was sure I'd seen before, although I knew that was impossible. It turned out that I had read the book years before. It was amazing to me how closely my memories of the book mirrored the movie.

Colleen said...

literary feline - I think you are right; we visualize what we know. Your story about the movie is so interesting. Isn't it great when the movie actually matches up with what was in our mind when we read the book?