Talking Heads syndrome is a topic that I discussed in an earlier post. Incidentally, as time passed, I reached a point with the comic project I am working on where lengthy dialogue between 2 characters was involved. It was a perfect opportunity to put the tips into practice and use the pages as examples to illustrate the points raised in the earlier post. Let’s get down to it.
This few pages depict a scene between Orcus, the horned dude, and Jupiter, the other guy. It is mostly exposition and dialogue-heavy, the kind of trap that might cause an unsuspecting creator to commit the mistake of “talking heads”. Using the tips in the earlier post, I attempt to circumvent this difficult part of the story and try to keep the reader entertained and interested.
In the first page, the reader is introduced to Orcus. For maximum impact, I decided to allocate majority of the page to featuring him. He occupies the entire left portion of the page and his cape cuts into the other panels stacked on the side. Visually, he is arresting and imposing. His presence is “invading” the space on the page.
Tips wise, here we see Orcus‘ feet. The head sizes on the page also vary in size, from very small in the 2nd panel to more medium sized in the last 2 panels. The dialogue is distributed throughout the panels in order to cut them down to size when translated visually on the page. For example, the dialogue from Orcus is split into 2 between panel 1 and panel 2.
On page 2, the heavy dialogue continues. Orcus really has a lot to say.
The head sizes continues to vary throughout the page, implying changes in the camera between medium shots and close-ups. Working through page 2, I realized I am falling into the trap of repeating my camera shots.
Notice that the side view in panel 3 of page 2 is similar to panel 4 of page 1. Same with the last panels of page 1 and 2. They are too similar! This is starting to turn into “talking heads”!
I needed to switch it up immediately. Using the tips, I quickly determined that we haven’t seen the feet of the characters yet. Therefore, in the first panel of the 3rd page, I pulled the camera further away so as to accommodate the full figures of the 2 characters into the shot. This forces me to re-position the camera as well as reintroduce the setting/background. Look at panel 1 of page 3. Isn’t it a breath of fresh air after seeing so many heads talking from before?
With the crisis of talking heads syndrome avoided, I can continue with using closeups again without tiring the reader visually.
Bonus tip: Besides varying head sizes, showing feet and cutting dialogue, we can also avoid talking heads through closeups of other elements such as props, background or body part that pertains to the storytelling. In panel 3 of page 3, we see the hand of Orcus passing a note to Jupiter, instead of a head talking to another head again.
Sometimes exposition through lengthy dialogue is inevitable. From the examples above, hopefully you can see how the tips put forth help you as the creator to avoid repetitive talking head shots and keep the reader engaged with your comic.
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