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Home » Archives » October 2006 » Making Faces
[Previous entry: "Getting Some Action"] [Next entry: "And He Was Slow With the Check"]

10/11/2006: Making Faces

I was just talking yesterday with friend-of-the-blog Alisa about Scott McCloud's fine book Understanding Comics, and then today I come across this. (This is the Kevin Kelly site, which I reached through Boing Boing) The excerpts are from McCloud's new book, Making Comics. Scroll down. The illustration that blows me away is the one where he illustrates how faces displaying simple emotions can be combined to create faces displaying complex emotions. Look at the math of it! It's beautiful. And somehow shockingly true. Just knowing that a fear face and joy face create a desperation face... yes! Yes, of course they do! And anger + joy = cruelty. Yes! My only disagreement would be with joy + sadness, which creates an expression he calls "faint hope" but which I would call "brave front." Maybe it's a matter of the recipe: two parts joy to one part sadness or vice versa.

I'm not even sure what this has to do with writing for television. But it's making my writing cords vibrate, so it must in some way. I'm certainly struck by the way the complex faces make me want to write dialogue. McCloud clearly has the same instinct -- disgust + surprise = "you *ate* it?!" Sounds about right.

I think what I'm struck by is how some of the ingredients in complex emotions had escaped my conscious awareness. The ones with 'joy' in them seem to particularly capture the imagination. The joy that's part of cruelty... and the one captioned "Eww" -- disgust + joy... I feel like I've just learned something about human nature, you know?

I'm also left wondering about emotions that aren't here -- smugness, for example. Is it maybe joy + anger, just like cruelty, but with more joy and less anger? Hmm. Or is this all way too reductive? Human emotions can't simply be reduced to formulae better suited for combining Jelly Belly flavors. But it sure serves as a nice springboard for thinking about feelings.

Even a static scene of two people talking about their life philosophies can be fascinating if you track the emotions of the characters. I don't know, but I feel maybe like now I'm a little more attuned to what that means.

I think we should all run over to Amazon and buy this book. We're all there buying Prisoner of Trebekistan anyway, right?

Lunch: scrambled eggs with salsa and tortillas


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