The Secret Language of Comics: Visual Thinking and Writing

Literacy Narrative pt. 2 reflection

Creating this part of my literacy narrative was a huge change from having to just write my thoughts out on paper. In this part of the literacy narrative project, I was able to express my thoughts in a visual manor by drawing out comic panels. I found this much easier to do rather than write everything down as I am a visual learner, meaning when I formulate ideas in my head they are almost always presented as pictures. From there I normally would have to translate those images to words to complete what ever assignment I am writing. For this assignment, however, I was just able to draw what I originally imagined in my head, which made the process of brainstorming and organizing my ideas a lot less strenuous. I didn’t have to spend excess time making sure what I was writing lines up with the idea I had in my head, I could just let my thoughts flow. 

Drawing out my literacy narrative in comic form made me realize that in the alphabetical form, my tone is a lot more aggressive towards technology than I want it to be. I found that in the comic literacy narrative, I was able to show that there are pros and cons for both a life with and without technology. In the alphabetical version, however, I seem to favor the life without technology which is not the intention I wanted to give. Due to this realization, I have plans to go back to the original literacy narrative and edit it to make it highlight the pros and cons of technology.

One of the biggest choices I made when creating this comic was to only use pencil. I knew from the beginning I didn’t want to use color as I had chosen a very simplistic style of drawing and using color would have taken away from that style. Originally, I wanted to outline all the lines with pen, to make the lines much bolder and easier to see. In the final product, however, I did not end up outlining anything with pen. This is because I began to use the technique of shading in some of the comic panels. I thought that if I used pen to outline the drawings it would take away some of the depth that the shading creates. In the final product, it is somewhat hard to see the shading as the scanner did not pick it up very well (it’s easiest to see on page 3). 

When writing drawing out this comic, I was able to practice some of the learning outcomes we discussed as a class. Two of the ones I found the most prevalent for this project was “Visual Thinking” and “Writing as Process”. I noticed myself using visual thinking when I was planning out how to arrange my comic. This really helped with organization of my ideas and let me spend less time brain storming and more time creating. I found myself using “writing as process” during this assignment as I went through multiple drafts of my comics. Each time I made a draft I got peer feedback witch allowed me to improve on my project.

Reflecting On My Comic

The process of completing my literacy narrative comic was difficult in the way that I had one idea and the finished product was completely different. However, I do like how the finished product came out and it has created some thoughts already in how I would edit the sole text version of my narrative. I believe that through this assignment I was able to meet the learning objectives of visual thinking and critical thinking and reading resulting in writing. I pair these together as the outcome of this assignment because it took a lot for me to figure out a way I wanted to represent my story and I went through so many ideas.

The reason it was a hard time for me to visualize how I wanted my narrative to read as a comic is because in my mind I was going to recreate something like Allie Brosh’s “Adventures in Depression, Part One” that we read in class. I viewed my anxieties of wrting as something similar to that and really made connections with that work. But in my process of brainstorming I realized that I more so see my anxiety as a separate entity that comes from the dark parts of my mind. This is why I decided to make it such a dark force and emphasize its negativity in representing its dialect in different “font”.

When drawing my narrative I was constantly thinking about how if I had more time, I could have represented everything better and it would have made more sense. When imagining how my finished product would look I didn’t have stick figures in mind or a simple black and white theme either. Even though I added some color, in my mind it was supposed to be even more colorful than that. But I can say that after finishing the narrative, I feel like what I did serves its purpose and represents my story perfectly. No matter if they are stick figures they relay the message in a powerful way.

Once I completed making my narrative into its visual component gave me more strength I think and made me feel more powerful and more in control because I could see my story rather than just living it in my mind. I was able to depict the moments where I break free from the negative thoughts from my anxiety monster and the moment where it shrinks into something minor from something that was just so overwhelming and I felt proud. Even though I go through these tough moments and it often gets very difficult, I still overcome.

Literacy Narrative Comic Reflection

Creating the comic for my literacy narrative was actually a lot of fun and pretty easy. It’s the first time ever in my life that I created a comic based on a piece of writing that I wrote myself. Making the actual comic wasn’t too different than writing my literacy narrative. This is because, I used the same strategy for all 12 of my panels. I wrote a variation of my topic sentence from each paragraph and used that as the narrative, and then looked at the rest of the paragraph, and visualized what that would look like. I then just repeated that process.

Once the visual component was added to my literacy narrative I think it really brought my story to life. However, I wrote my literacy narrative knowing that I would turn it into a comic, and so I really tried visualize everything while writing it. That’s why my thinking once the visual component was added didn’t change that much. I do think though, that the addition of drawings helped further my arguments and the message I was trying to convey. Overall my analytical thinking process wasn’t too different.

My ideas really didn’t change that much from the alphabetic version to the comic. I relied heavily on the alphabetic version in order to create my comic and as a result I feel like a lot of my ideas are constant between the two of them. There were though, a few parts in my alphabetic version that I had trouble visualizing and as a result had to create a panel without help from my alphabetic version.

I know that we still have one part of the literacy narrative to do, but after completing the first two parts I definitely think that I have met a lot of the “learning outcomes”. For example, this assignment helped me a lot in my writing process as I constantly reread and revised the alphabetical part of my literacy narrative. I also enhanced my visual thinking and creativity. By converting words into pictures it really made me visualize the words so I could draw something that depicted that. Although, throughout the year I have worked on my digital identity and use of technology, for me this assignment did not involve any technological aspect. Because I hand drew everything there was no need for a comic software or consideration of intellectual property.

The Constant Redrafting of this Project and My Life: A Literacy Narrative Reflection

The hardest part about turning my written essay into a visual comic was putting my pencil to the page to begin drawing. I spent most of my time planning out what I wanted in my head so much so that sometimes I found myself stuck for days working on the same page, without even beginning to draw. The most important stylistic aspect that I wanted to include in my piece was a sense of a full page piece of art. I didn’t want to separate the bits into simple blocks of text and image, but rather, I wanted to create that feeling of “all-at-onceness” when one turns to the next page.

This odd stylistic determination was probably the biggest hindrance to me actually making the comic. For each page before I could make a mark I had to ask myself: what is the purpose of this page? And then I tried to come up with a way to convey that feeling as an entire page, while at the same time spacing in smaller moments of plot structure that still connected to the page as a whole. This thematic sectioning by page also forced me to boil down my essay to the core feelings and ideas I needed to convey to properly show my story visually. In this way I actually rethought a lot of my narrative. How is one supposed to represent the feeling of nostalgia in a drawing? What is the true story I am trying to tell? When I asked myself these questions I ended up changing the actual story slightly. Instead of feeling forlorn at the apparent emptiness of my nostalgia for my childhood, I became inspired to draw again from reading Harold and the Purple Crayon. Both of these feelings are true and both still relate to the feelings my childhood books leave with me, but in my written narrative it was easier to focus on the abstract concept of nostalgia while in my graphic narrative it was easier to convey the desire to draw. In some ways though I believe those are similar things. I’m not sure if I managed to properly convey this in my graphic, but to me the nostalgia for a time when I could spend the entire day sitting around in my room reading and drawing is very real. The fact that this is a simplified narrative –which shifted from the idea of an empty nostalgia and towards the artistic inspiration and fulfillment I received from reliving my childhood– does not discredit the reality of the new visual story.

I played around with the fourth wall breaking idea of Harold for a while before I settled down on the final version. At first I was imagining a scene in which Harold quite literally draws my childhood memories, or even having a younger version of myself draws my memories. Had I more time I would have loved to incorporate color into the piece, either having Harold and my childhood in color, or having everything be black and white until I re-read Harold and the Purple Crayon in a dazzling panel in which I jump inside the world of the book and begin coloring in my old memories alongside Harold. When I was drawing out the middle couple pages of the graphic my mind stumbled upon the visual of me drawing Harold and Harold drawing me. Almost a ying-yang, snake eating its own tail, balance sort of thing. If I were to create a cover for this piece it would certainly consist of that. This image struck a deeper chord in me. To me it speaks to how we are constantly drawing from our pasts and how we are also constantly redrawing our own pasts. Every time I read Harold and the Purple Crayon –or any book for that matter– I am redrawing and reshaping the experience that I previously had from it. I am taking that initial feeling and molding it into a slightly different version. I don’t know if that came across in the story of the comic but I was definitely thinking about that in the involvement of Harold throughout my piece.


The literacy narrative comic assignment was significantly different than the previous assignments. This week’s assignment required meticulous planning and attention to detail. In the first literacy narrative assignment, I did not express properly what I wanted to communicate to the reader. In the first draft of the first literacy narrative assignment, I put more emphasis on my fascination with Game of Thrones than the general process of how I grew as a reader and a writer. I decided to take a different approach to this assignment and focus on the external forces that shaped the way I read and write. The most challenging aspect of constructing my literacy narrative comic was recognizing my rhetorical situation. The set of constraints imposed (a limited number of pages) forced me to omit numerous reading and writing experiences that had a significant impact. The peer-review process played a key role in how my comic was structured. My initial draft focused on my father’s influence on my reading. The plan was to limit the number of panels per page to four, but the feedback I got was to uniformly structure the story so that each moment got its fair share of the spotlight. I employed a visual thinking strategy employed by Drnaso in Sabrina, where close-ups on a screen or letter are utilized which brings out the illusion that the reader is (literally) seeing it from the character’s point of view. David Small, the author of Stitches, influenced the way I drew my father’s facial features and expressions.

I had a rough outline of the story I wanted to tell, but after progressing through a few panels I had a clearer and more specific idea that I wanted to portray on paper. Expressing moments visually allowed me to easily portray scenes I would not have been able to do in a traditional narrative essay. Writing for colleges was a traumatic experience and expressing that experience in the form of a comic allowed me to showcase the way I felt about the experience, how I experienced difficulties with writing, and the nightmares I had about the essays. The literacy narrative comic assignment has forced me to rethink the way I wrote my alphabetical literacy narrative and focus on the moments emphasized in the comic. 

I feel that if in an ideal situation the set of constraints were to be eliminated, the story would have had the chance of being developed organically and there would’ve been more insight into my relationship with my parents in terms of reading and the negative effect college essays had on my perception of writing. The end product would have been a comprehensive overview of my transformative experience as a reader and a writer.

The link to the assignment is here.

Image credits:

Caterpillars and Literature Reflection

For this weeks assignment I had a quite daunting task. I had to turn a written account of my reading and writing journey into a visual comic. At first I struggled with this because my writing narrative did not contain a main event. Instead it was just a sires of less significant small events. Before long I realized that the main idea of my narrative was the pattern, the pattern of liking literature to hating it to learning to love it again. This U-shaped paradigm was why my relationship to literature was so complicated.

So I came to the conclusion that I needed to find a way to visualize this complicated nature. First I played around with the ideas of putting all the positive memories on one side and all my negative memories on one side of the page. Upon further consideration I decided to depict my positive memories from my childhood first, then describe the negative experiences and finally end with illustrations of an improved relationship with literature. In order to highlight that the love of literature had not died completely, I placed the caterpillar among the grim boxes of negative experiences. Also, in the final positive experiences I removed the boxes and put the caterpillar in the actual scene to show that caterpillars, or a love of reading, had once again become a part of my life.

To view my literacy narrative comic, Caterpillars and Literature, click here.

Literacy Narrative Part 2 Reflection

The process of converting my alphabetic text to a comic and then revising my first draft with peer feedback increased my comfort with seeing writing as a process. Until I made my own comic, I never knew the many steps involved in putting together a narrative in comic form. Getting feedback on the first version of my comic was somewhat unsettling since I don’t know everyone in our class as well as I knew my pool of peer reviewers in high school, so I worried more about others’ judgment. Despite the discomfort, the peer reviews I received had perhaps the most influence on how I revised my comic. While I was initially unsure about the three by three, repetitive panels on my second page, the positive feedback I got made me confident in my decision to keep the same structure in my final draft. Moreover, reading through other students’ comics gave me lots of inspiration for how I could make my comic more visually interesting. In particular, Dean’s humor and use of abstract imagery completely broadened my idea of what could be in a comic. I emulated his abstract “road to adulthood” in one of my last illustrations where I depicted “measuring up to others” as a drawing of me standing next to an enlarge ruler. During the process of revising my comic is when I felt that my skills in visual thinking truly flourished because I let go of the confines of an alphabetic narrative that I was holding onto. By embracing comics’ ability to have panels arranged not just chronologically but also through space, I was able to access the full potential of telling a story in a comic form.

My initial impression was that by converting my alphabetic text to a comic, I lost a lot of the details. However, through the process of editing and arranging my comic in a more interesting way, I realized that the details were simply shown in different ways. Although I lost some of the descriptions of the setting and how I felt, I was able to capture the most important parts of the narrative through drawing. In fact, the process of adding in detail through imagery actually helped me cut out unnecessary elements because I realized that it wasn’t that important to give my reader some details like exactly what my Kindergarten classroom looked like. Rather, the details I incorporated focussed on my experience at that moment. On the bottom of my first page, I drew myself balancing on balls that represented the lower reading levels, in order to portray how unsteady my reading skills were as I reached for the advanced level Amelia Bedelia. Converting my narrative into a comic also allowed me to incorporate some humor into my comic, which I had attempted to do in my alphabetic text but struggled to achieve. Perhaps the more free-form medium made me more comfortable adding comedy, especially compared to a traditional alphabetic text in which I’ve been taught to always be serious. 

My greatest challenge during this project was completing the illustrations because I had specific visions of what I wanted my drawing to look like, but I lacked the skill necessary to execute it. I ended up spending way too much time drawing and redrawing certain panels in order to make the characters look better. When drawing my final draft, the first page was the greatest challenge for me because I spent hours trying to get it right, only to eventually realize that the skill level of my drawing was not what would determine the success of my comic. If I were to do this project again, I might consider only using stick figures, in order to force myself to focus less on the individual drawings of people and more on the pages as a whole.

You can see my final comic here, and the first draft of my comic here.

The Reflection of my Literacy Comic

Creating the Literacy Narrative Comic has been a very strenuous process for me. Making any kind of comic was something that I felt very intimidated by because it was such a new and unfamiliar medium for me. I believe the process of turning my narrative into this visual representation was extremely beneficial for my personal development, not only as a writer, but as a human being as well. This assignment really took me out of my comfort zone, but ultimately gave me a deeper understanding of literature in all types of mediums and made me proud of my accomplishment in such a novel field. 

Adding illustrations to my literacy narrative felt like it turned an essay about my literacy journey into a deeper and more interesting piece of work. Once the visual component was incorporated, reading my narrative became a more emotive experience for me. I was able to get a better understanding of the deeper feelings behind my journey into reading and writing and hopefully provide my audience with some emotional context through my drawings. During the peer editing workshop, one piece of feedback that I received was that they felt as if the facial expressions drawn provided them with the emotion of the panels without even reading the text. This was a great confirmation that my comic was on the right track to what I had been picturing in my head. It was my goal to create something that would hopefully depict the strong feelings in my story and what reading and writing truly meant to me. Ultimately, I believe I achieved these goals and created a comic that speaks louder than any essay of mine could’ve possibly done.

My original literacy narrative was much different than the story that my comic portrays now. When I first wrote my narrative it was difficult to think about all the internal reasons that I began to love reading and writing so I focused on some of the external factors that influenced my literacy journal. However, after a one on one conference that I had, I realized that it was important to dive deeper into the true story that I knew was hidden underneath. As this is a class that is rooted in trauma, I felt that I was only right to share some of mine through this comic. I wanted to make it very personal to me and provide my audience with a further understanding of who I am and what I have gone through in my life. While making my comic I spent a lot of time trying to create illustrations that were aesthetic and easy to understand. I’ve never been the best at drawing, but I tried really hard to display something that showed details and the emotion behind each of the characters. I decided not to write out my text, but to type it in instead in order to make the comic look more presentable and professional for my audience. Although this process has been slightly difficult for me both physically and emotionally, I feel very proud about the outcome and the work that I put in to make this comic the best that it could be. This assignment has definitely helped me grow and has showed me so much about the value of visual thinking as a whole.

A Reflection Upon Literacy Narrative Part 2: Making Comics

Even though the comic making process took up most of my free time of the week, I enjoyed it so much. At the beginning of the project, I was told that it could be a ton of work to convert my story board into a final version because I basically included all contents from my alphabetic version in my comic. However, since I’ve been trying to draw random comics from a young age, I found most of the process went through smoothly, and I ended up spent most of my time coloring and polishing my final piece instead of struggling about the overall structure. Similar to my alphabetic narrative, my comic is organized in a chronological order which reflects on my growth as a reader and writer from childhood to adolescence. In the original essay, I divided my narrative into three parts with different onomatopoeias as titles, each symbolizing a specific period of my reading and writing experiences. Transforming that into visual representation was, surprisingly, natural. For example, there is a paragraph in my essay describing how I climbed up and down the squeaky little ladder repeatedly to get the books off of the shelf. And in my comic, I actually managed to draw four parallel panels showing this “up-and-down” cycle in a row to better represent the idea of the repeating motion. I also added the onomatopoeias alongside the actions depicted (inspired by Stitches), which I was not able to do in alphabetic text, and it worked so well by making the figures seem to actually move within the panels.

The peer editing process we had last week was very helpful in terms of providing me with new insights into my work. In my original story board, I added the narrative text directly onto my images, which was not that visually aesthetic. I was then suggested to create a section for the texts on each panel (just like Spinning and Kindred do), and the comics turned out to be much clearer and organized. On the other hand, my peers seem to enjoy the way I incorporated sound into my narrative, so I knew I should probably emphasize the visual representation of sound in my final comic to make it enjoyable to read.

This assignment (although in the end it didn’t really seem like one but rather something that I would genuinely give all my efforts to make it better and better) really shows me how hard it is to make a comic, and thus I now view comics from an entirely different perspective than before since I know every visual element presented is a thought-through choice. To my biggest surprise, I found my way of recreating the alphabetic narrative through visual representation was, in fact, largely influenced by the comics I read before, as you can tell from this reflection how some of my choices are inspired by them. Again, the power of visuals I guess.

Trust the Process: A Reflection

My Literacy Narrative Comic naturally met the learning outcomes for this class. My narrative itself was about the writing process and the guidelines for the project allowed me to explore visual thinking and my digital identity. The least familiar aspect of this assignment was its medium. Though some assignments in high school required the use of drawings and pictures, none specifically required the description of an original narrative through comics. My comic narrative is about my discovery of the true messiness of the writing process and the benefit of asking for help. My first written narrative was about feeling gratified through teacher recognition. The process of writing the first draft and refocusing my story for the comic version after getting help is a direct example of the writing process that I discover in my comic. I was struggling to edit my written draft until I needed to focus on which elements I should portray in my comics. Once I had to visualize specific moments to draw, I was able to come up with a clearer story that responded to my professor’s original notes. 

I only had so much time to draw–an activity I enjoy– and so I decided to use stick figures, though I must admit my artistic ego took a hit. By saving time with stick figures, I was able to allot time towards experimenting with different framing ideas, something that my peers noticed and enjoyed. My comic as a whole is a diverse mixture of panel structures, wordy briefs, and out-of-the-box frames. Within each frame I mostly switched between focusing on either my face to show my emotions, or the back of my head to show what I was looking at. I made all of these decisions with the reader in mind because I felt that the mixture would allow for a captivating flow.  

Having my peers view a draft of my comic was both beneficial to my work and the class dynamic. It was nice to see everyone working together and accepting suggestions. Most of the comments on my peer editing form were about the transition between my second and third page. Some of the frames in the second page were cramped and then the theme of larger ideas on the third page was too abrupt a change from the small technical ideas in the second page. This was the major change I made in my final comic. Instead of only three pages, I know have four. I shifted some of the frames from the second page onto the third to give greater emphasis to each visual idea. My most creative edit was in the transition between the original frames from the second and third frames. I decided to use the drawing of my diary writing in the first page to foreshadow my use of diary writing in later panels to smooth transitions. Now, the “Personal Timeline” and “perfect essay formula” that were once out of place had a home within the writings of my diary.