How 'The Secret Life of Comics' Changed my Writing

How ‘The Secret Life of Comics’ Changed my Writing

One of the prominent course outcomes for the class was composing texts in multiple genres, using multiple modes. In ‘The Secret Life of Comics’, I tackled this learning outcome in three different ways. For three of my major assignments, I wrote an alphabetic essay, a four page comic, and presented a powerpoint. Each of these assignments were for a different audience. First of all, all of my assignments were posted on my website, so I always had to keep in mind that all of my work was being shown to the world. Another instance of this learning outcome is when my powerpoint presentation was presented to the class, so I left out context about the books that they already knew. From thinking about my audience, I have learned that I need to tailor my writing in order to appease my readers; in certain cases, context is unnecessary and does not need to be added.

Another course outcome was that we had to summarize, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the ideas of others. In our Tracing Pages assignment, we were instructed to analyze different pages from two different graphic novels and compare and contrast the two. I analyzed a page from ‘Spinning’ and ‘Stitches’, comparing how both texts’ main characters had no control over their own lives. I talked about how the framing and layout of the pages put the characters in positions of impotence. Analyzing comics has given me skills that I can apply while analyzing alphabetic texts. For example, authors of graphic novels use the layout of a page to build a certain emotion for the reader. I can implement this strategy in my future alphabetic or visual writing by influencing the layout of the words on the page.

Drafting, revision, editing, and reflection were also objectives that I learned in this class. For our Literacy Narrative Project, we drafted a story on what our most prominent moments as writers were. We then made a second draft, but revised the story into a comic. Our third and final draft was then turned back into an alphabetic text. Going through this process helped me realize how important the revision process actually is. Although my first draft was sufficient in my eyes, I felt that I went above and beyond while transferring it into a comic. While my original draft was concise and had all of the information needed, it did not go the extra mile. This made my comic seem incredibly boring, so I added comedy. When I did my next round of revising, I added the element of comedy in the final product. This taught me that even if my first draft fulfils the requirements, doing an extra couple rounds of edits helps in order to make your work stand out.

Throughout the class, I also applied my newfound knowledge from analysis into my graphic artistry. An example of this was in my final comic, when I integrated an overview panel. I saw this strategy used in the story Maus, that we reviewed on the first day of class. In Maus, there is an outline of the narrator’s father throughout the page. This outline shows how his story is woven throughout the pages of the book. I tried to mimic this in my comic, showing how the comic is truly about my history as well.

The final learning outcome is using technology with respect to engaging responsibility in online spaces. This pilar was tackled through my website, https://sawyersteinmiller.wordpress.com/. Throughout the year, I have had the privilege of learning how to express myself through a blog. I have spent countless hours tinkering with the customize tool on the website, figuring out the most efficient way to show my work throughout the year. In my Sunday Sketches, I have also had to cite the pictures that I use from other sources. Even though we have not been properly instructed to, now that I have my own digital identity, I know how it would feel if my work were stolen without proper citation.

As stated earlier, the three projects we have had to tackle are Tracing Pages, the Literacy Narrative and the Halfa Kucha. Our first assignment was Tracing Pages. For the project, we had to trace two pages from different books of our choosing. I chose ‘Stitches’ by David Smalls and ‘Spinning’ by Tillie Walden. In my essay, I explain how “In comics, framing and page structure are extremely crucial when it comes to explaining a point to your audience, and [the authors] use these strategies effectively to relay the fact that the main characters in their respective stories have no control over their own lives.” The process of crafting this essay was simple and not too grueling. From the day the assignment was given to the class, I knew what essay I wanted to create, and I executed efficiently. Although I wrote something that I was proud of, I honestly did not go above and beyond. If I were to dig deeper into the texts and find deeper connections, I think I would have developed as a writer more. Although I did not take this assignment to the next level, it was a fantastic way for me to ease into college level writing, and it certainly gave me the confidence to push out of my comfort zone in future assignments.

The final full assignment was the Halfa Kucha. We were instructed to make ten slides, each only being on the screen for twenty full seconds. I made my presentation about how in the books ‘Sabrina’ and ‘Stitches’, certain characters in their respective books start the path of overcoming trauma by reaching out to others and sharing their story. In my speaker notes, I quote that “although trauma is disastrous for just about anybody, it is never impossible to recover from”. This project had lots of positives and negatives when it came to my working and writing process. The two main negatives were presenting in front of a group of people and how I framed my project to my audience. When I went up to present in front of the class, I relied too heavily on my speaker notes. Reflecting on the process, if I were to practice in front of my friends before hand instead of to myself, I would have been more confident in front of the class and not needed the speaker notes. Because of this, I stuttered and lost my place throughout the presentation, making it seem less official. Another negative was that I did not tailor the presentation to the correct audience. In class, we were told to pretend that we were the “smartest in the room” on the topic we were presenting. I interpreted this statement wildly incorrectly, pretending like everyone else was not educated on the novels’ material instead of the analysis of the novels themselves. About one third of my presentation was unnecessary context that could have been replaced with a deeper analytical perspective that I was definitely capable of producing. The positives of this presentation were that I learned from my mistakes. Right after sitting down from my presentation, I immediately knew what went wrong and what I need to change next time in order to have an effective presentation. 

Throughout the year, we were assigned a project called our Literacy Narrative. For this project, we were instructed to write an alphabetic essay about our most impactful moment as a writer. I wrote about a short story that I wrote in 11th grade, and how it was the first assignment that I had spent a considerable time editing. My motivation to work hard on the assignment stemmed from the broad rubric, where we could essentially write about whatever we wanted. After editing for the first time, I realized how horrendous my writing truly was and how I needed to make adjustments in order to create a product that I was truly proud of.
When writing this narrative, the process was relatively simple, and I did not put much deep thought into it. I was satisfied with the product, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. This was fitting because the narrative that I was writing was about how I needed multiple drafts and reviews in order to make something truly great, and this product fit the script. In my one on one meeting with David, he explained how I needed more personality in my narrative and how I gave too much context about the short story itself instead of the process.

The second draft of the narrative was a transformation from alphabetic text to comic form. This round of edits was a lot more successful. To add more of a personal touch, I added comedy into the comic. Although my artistry is nothing special, the childish and playful comic relief fit the art style perfectly. I was extremely proud of this piece, and was excited to turn it back into an alphabetic text, which was the third and final part of the assignment. The comic was extremely fitting with my narrative; after various rounds of edits, I was able to not only improve the quality of the piece, but also make it more personable in the process. 

The final draft was a time consuming challenge, but the choice of starting the alphabetic text from scratch paid off. The final product kept the childish nature of my personality from my comic while still keeping a serious narrative with a clear message. This project and the class as a whole has really taught me that writing isn’t just about reading long words strung together in a fluid or sophisticated way, but it is an art form where if tackled correctly, an author can express themselves in whichever way they please. Although I am not there yet, the failures and victories from this class have pushed me in the write direction as a writer. As quoted from my Literacy Narrative, “Individuality gives you identity as a writer and can make your work truly interesting to read.”

As you look through my work from this website, I hope you can catch a glimpse of my character through how I write and draw. If you have any questions or comments about the content of my work, please email me at sawyer.steinmiller@gmail.com!

Here is the rubric to the final reflection letter!
Here is the class website!

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