In this article we will show you the different possibilities you have to create your comic sequences. We will explain step by step each of these 6 vignette transitions that you must master, so you can understand them perfectly, read on.
The space between vignettes in comics, or gutter, is the key to simulate time in our stories.
As we have seen in previous articles (see Discover what happens between the bullets of a comic). We have seen that it is the place where the magic happens that allows us to tell the events we want, without having to draw vignettes for every millisecond that passes in the story.
Vignette transitions: Imagination + visual impact
As cartoonists and screenwriters, we must decide what things from the story we are going to show in each of our vignettes, and what things the reader is going to imagine.
We will have to make assumptions about the reader’s experiences, so that they can fill in the incomplete facts in their imagination.
Remember when we said that closure in comics (completing the facts mentally) is a kind of secret pact between the creators and the readers?
For a comic book to work, there must be a good handling of that contract by the creator.
A good comic book artist has to be able to show the right images in the vignettes, to achieve a great sequence.
It is essential to exercise the craft to master the different transitions that we can achieve in our comics.
The 6 vignette transitions you need to master and understand
Here are some tips to create different transitions from vignette to vignette, and thus achieve a mastery of the times that pass in our stories.
Transition: Moment to moment
In this category, the connection between vignettes is the most obvious and quickest. It is a transition, in which we draw the same character, in a sequence that shows every minimal aspect of an action.
For example, we can imagine a vignette in which a cat is stalking a mouse, and, in the next one, the same cat moves a paw minimally, about to jump. In this moment-to-moment transition, time slows down.
Transition: Action to action
This is the most commonly used transition in comics. In them, an element is represented as progressing action by action. The center, in this type of jump between frames, are the actions that make a sequence.
We can represent a follow-up of the actions of one or several characters, in which the jump in time will be greater than the one we saw in the previous transition.
An example could be to first draw a soccer player about to receive the ball, and then show that the ball is already in the air after the player has hit it.
Transition: Theme to theme
As you may have noticed, we are advancing in a scale of time and space jumps, each time wider and wider, right?
In this third category, we will no longer be talking about jumps between one moment or another within those that make up an action. Nor, from one action to another, of those that make up a sequence.
In the transition from theme to theme, the unifying line will be that of the central idea that participates in all those characters or images that we show.
As an example, we can think of a vignette in which a murderer is about to attack his victim with a knife, and in the following one, only a scream appears in the middle of the night.
This transition requires a greater degree of reader participation to make sense of the sequence. Are you getting the point?
Transition: Scene by scene
In this case, the jumps between vignettes transport us to considerable distances of time and space. The reader will have to carry out deductive reasoning to make sense of what is happening.
Let’s go to this example, in a first vignette, we draw a man comforting his wife, because he thinks that his son died in a plane crash. In the next sequence of vignettes, we show the child on an island, in the middle of the ocean.
Generally, in this type of transition, the narrator’s voice is used to facilitate comprehension, as, for example, when writing “Meanwhile” or “Far away”.
Transition: Aspect to Aspect
In this transition, time is often overlooked, and relationships between places, ideas, or moods are emphasized.
We can draw a summer sequence, in which we show in the first vignette, a shining sun, and, in the next one, a person with sunglasses, resting on the beach.
The reader should relate both images to the idea we want to show, of “summer”.
We call in this way the transitions or jumps, where there is no apparent relation between the pictures shown. Think of images that have no logic and you will know what I am talking about!
We can show a gentleman laughing in one vignette, and in the next, a tree, and in the next, some fish. Beyond the fact that they may not make sense, we have to know that the reader will always try to imagine some kind of relationship between them.
So much for the different possibilities to create your sequences in comics!
It is very important to balance their use, to achieve a good mastery of the representation of time and space in our stories.
In another post you will see examples of artists who have used each of these categories in their work, but, in the meantime, do you recognize any of these transitions in your favorite comics? Research and practice!
To achieve a good representation of space-time in our stories, it is essential that you have a good command of the 6 transitions mentioned during the article.
Each and every one of them are important, just by observing and putting into practice the explanations given here, you will be able to create fabulous sequences in your comics.
The rest will be imagination and good ideas, but I recommend you to go back to the beginning and read them again.
McCloud, Scott (1994) Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: Harper Collins & Kitchen Sink Press.
Loza, Manuel (2010). How to read a comic book. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Universidad Nacional de las Artes.