Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Writing Autobiographical Comics

They can be really self-indulgent, autobiographical comics, but that's really because the "I" of the story is right there in your face, illustrated, coming at you. The character, because even in an autobiographical comic the "I" of the story is a character, is no more, and more than likely a lot less, self indulgent than say, Salinger's Holden Caulfield - but of course The Catcher in the Rye is a "real book". For some reason even members of the cartooning community, many of whom create comics themselves, cannot get their heads round the fact that autobiography can be used as a method of telling a story, rather than simply being a vehicle for telling a truth. It is not a new concept, and there is nothing dishonest about it; it is a method of storytelling that clergymen have utilised in Saturday and Sunday sermons for hundreds of years; "a funny thing happened to me on my way to worship today...". It is simply about placing a character, yourself, at the centre of the story you wish to tell, in much the same that one does when one relates an urban legend: "this really happened, I know because it happened to me...".

It is commonplace in fiction to use autobiographical and biographical details of people one has met, and one knows, in order to make the fictional characters more lifelike. It is also common in "non-fiction" to embroider stories, or to inflate the role of certain individuals. It is very common, more so than you might imagine, to discover that what was supposed to be an accurate Primary source, on which the history of an event was based, was actually partial, and part-fiction. It is also just a quirk of human nature that memory is unreliable, and so we change the order of events, and even the importance of our role in what happened, frequently over the years whenever we retell the story of ourselves, to ourselves. This is not a conscious attempt to deceive, it happens because the narrative of our lives is written in shifting sands.

Now, many of you (regular readers know what that is code for) have asked if many of the things that happened to my cousin Allan and I actually did happen. Well, yes they did; I believe. And more than one person has asked if my cousin Allan actually exists, or if he is a figment of my imagination, like E.J Thrib's friend Keith. Well, yes he does; here's a recent photograph of him modelling the latest fashion in Inverness:


Allan said...

I remember this picture well. It was actually from my first day at school in spring 1963. Isn't it interesting, though, how fashions are cyclical. I predict that the post-low-slungs will tend toward high waist (positioned just under the breasts - regard the puppy fat) and the sock will replace the pants as the exposed undergarment.

Rod McKie said...

I hate to point it out to you, but that amdram outfit isn't a million miles away from the green boiler suits we wore to Clouds in the 70s. What I'd give for a photo of that.