Illustrating silence in comics

Zoe

4-Stripe White Belt
#1
Hey there, you guys!
I'm looking for ways to illustrate silence in comics, especially awkward silence, with visual elements (not including written sound effects).
I know you can create silence by simply not including speech, putting space between panels, etc but that seems to be for emphasizing a lonely/emotional/self-reflective silence.
The closest example I could come up with the bush rolling in a desert type mostly used in animation.
Do you have any thoughts/suggestions?
 

Batichi

4-Stripe White Belt
#2
If the scene is without tension, I just dropped a page on my site over at www.xiicomic.com that's focused primarily on repeating panels with really awkward/uncomfortable poses. You can squish the panels together making it feel claustrophobic to add to the 'quiet awkwardness' (like two people squished together in a subway) but again I usually find the primary focus is no sound effects and uncomfortable body posture, opening and closing mouths, itching and avoiding eye contact.
 
#3
Hold the silence for multiple panels! Instead of having just one silent, awkward panel, have two. Have the characters look away from each other and fiddle with things and just emphasise the awkwardness through body-language.

Also, contrast helps. If the panels immediately before, and immediately after, are full of noise and dialogue, then the silent panels will stand out more.
 
#4
Hey there, you guys!
I'm looking for ways to illustrate silence in comics, especially awkward silence, with visual elements (not including written sound effects).
I know you can create silence by simply not including speech, putting space between panels, etc but that seems to be for emphasizing a lonely/emotional/self-reflective silence.
The closest example I could come up with the bush rolling in a desert type mostly used in animation.
Do you have any thoughts/suggestions?
I think you need to consider the power of body language too, as well as tone and light vs darkness. Three panels of the same person thing getting darker over time can have a great impact on a story.

Also silence is related to the passing of time, so anything moving a little (a breeze through trees, a ripple on water) can be silence. Summarily, the speed at which something moves can set the tone for your scene quite well, if the leaves are being ripped off the trees by a strong wind or falling softly onto snow you'll invoke an expectation in the reader of what's coming next.
 
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CPTBee

White Belt
#5
I've worked on a one shot that was entirely silent before, so I guess I have some level of credibility in this subject (still, don't take my word for it LOL).

Eye direction is an incredibly important element to have in any situation, but especially in silent moments when that's all the reader/viewer has to tell them of a character's intentions. This is mainly a rule I've learned through studying storyboards in animation, but I feel like it could be applied to comics as well.

If you want to put emphasis on the silence being awkward, well, think of it like this: awkward silence is when characters feel a need to say something for some reason but can't make up their minds or bring up the courage to do it. So with that in mind I think that you can effectively show this by making it clear that they want to speak but can't, for example using mannerisms instead, like finger tapping, leg bouncing, scratching, etc.

One way that I think you could use this to good effect is if you had a small scene prior where your character does a small mannerism during an awkward moment (doesn't have to be in silence), so that when the awkward silence scene does come around and that character does the exact same mannerism readers will automatically make the connection.
 
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Zoe

4-Stripe White Belt
#6
I think you need to consider the power of body language too, as well as tone and light vs darkness. Three panels of the same person thing getting darker over time can have a great impact on a story.
This would be my usual course of action, as the only thing I have going for me is dynamics of characters/expressions, that's I was looking for alternative, I was worried it might not stand out.

Also, contrast helps. If the panels immediately before, and immediately after, are full of noise and dialogue, then the silent panels will stand out more.
I didn't consider this, but it makes so much sense! Thank you, @Anna Landin!

One way that I think you could use this to good effect is if you had a small scene prior where your character does a small mannerism during an awkward moment (doesn't have to be in silence), so that when the awkward silence scene does come around and that character does the exact same mannerism readers will automatically make the connection.
That's actually really creative solution! Thank you!
 
#7
Regarding body language (this is a recent sketch so it's not clean & pretty but if it helps at all)
Eny_n_Savai_20WM.png

Basically if you remove the thought bubbles etc you have a simple moment to moment transition that shows time passing in silence. This is a rough image for a scene that won't show up for a few chapters, so it's kind of hard to share it honestly! But here's what I'm going for: an obvious disagreement. You can tell these two are still comfortable around one another because they are unconsciously walking in step. You can tell who's at fault (or feels responsible because he glances at her) and also that it won't be resolved easily because one person is not in the right place for that.

This would be my usual course of action, as the only thing I have going for me is dynamics of characters/expressions, that's I was looking for alternative, I was worried it might not stand out.
Also if you have the dynamic I think you have everything. Not that you can't tell a story without strong character relationships, but it's what people connect to the most.
 
#8
I think you can show discomfort or hesitation or awkwardness in one character while things still happen around them. So, a character being silent while others are talking, mixed with their expressions, body language, and actions (or lack of action) can generally get the idea across.
Using open panels without action or dialogue usually serve to show a large passage of time, and as a pacing or setting tool, so you want to keep that in mind when laying out a scene.
One or two panels to show a slight change in action, or to serve as a beat, is fine. If it goes beyond that, but nothing else is happening, it can get confusing, throw off your pacing, and pull the reader out of the story.

I'm a huge huge fan of On A Sunbeam, and the way Walden uses the panels to direct pacing and to show silence, while still furthering the plot.
 
#9
I'm a big fan of using ellipses "......." to convey silence. Used fairly commonly in video games and anime, so I think most people understand what it means, even if it's not very conventional.
 

Michelle

4-Stripe White Belt
#10
For silence, oftentimes just adding in an extra panel helps give a sense of slowing down time. The more coverage we see of a single action or moment, the slower it feels.
You can also show off character reactions in these silent panels to up the awkward feeling. :> Here's an example from my comic where I included a silent panel for such an effect:

Regarding silent moments in general (awkward or not), I find long horizontal panels to be best for creating a pause. The effect is even stronger when you combine a horizontal panel with a full bleed, like this:

Since panel borders signify the start and end of a panel, removing the borders can add a sense of timelessness that lets the reader linger in that silent moment for much longer. :>

Also, any dialogue/SFX included in a panel will denote a certain amount of time we're spending in that moment. So by removing dialogue and text, we make the time spent in that panel more ambiguous.
 
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DLF

Blue Belt
#11
I was just going to say longer panels. I find that a longer horizontal panel feels more drawn out and makes things feel longer. If the awkward silence is coming in a conversation having several panels of talking heads followed by a long empty panel of the two heads staring blankly might do it.
 

hades

4-Stripe White Belt
#12
Something I learned with having mute characters in my comics is that silence isn't as hard as it seems at first. It creates a dynamic that is often overlooked by a creator [or reader].

Something that helps me is following beats per se. A beat is an expressed moment in a page, layout, or the story itself. Thinking in beats help the backbone structure of the page itself.

I'll start with a page that is entirely "silent" including a lack of sfx.


Now let's look at it in terms of beats.



There are 6 "scenes" total that can be pulled into beats on the page.
Each beat expresses a movement, transition, or subtle change to the page or scene.
This can be done through dialog or environment.
Each beat will add to the scene and push the story along. Wether it be in silence or in dialog!

Here are a few other examples I've used outside of following a beat pattern.

Panel layout.


Sometimes the silent panels can be found directly in the layout itself.
Draw attention to the moment by making it the focal point of the page.

Body language!


Silence can be found in the expression of body language of the moments. Sometimes that will be what pushes your page.

There is also of course moments of showing the environment or focusing in on objects and aspects. Or even the characters face as a reaction!


Silence is golden and should be used more as a story element. :]
 

Zoe

4-Stripe White Belt
#13
@hades your art is so beautiful! :O Also, this is great to remember, I think this in specific is something I really need to work on, as I find I sometimes struggle with timing and mood. That's such a great walk through
 

hades

4-Stripe White Belt
#14
@Zoe
you're very kind. :] Thank you.
Timing and pacing is very tough and the best way to learn is the experiment, practice, and edit edit edit.
Thinking in terms of beats and scenes will help a lot imo.
Like
Say we have five "beats" in a page.
1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
1. Character a enters the room.
2. character b is smoking and looking at character a.
3. character b shouts for character a to leave.
4. character a reaction of surprise.
5. character a talks back.

Sometimes beats wont always be as slow. Fast paced isn't always bad but slowing down can really draw out scenes and give you a chance to experiment in those "silent" moments.

Splash pages can actually create a fantastic moment of showing the silence in a scene! And it's considered a face paced "scene".

Take a moment to pick a part a favorite comic, webbie or print, and focus on their beats and how they convey a silent moment.
Not every moment is the same!