Last week I wrote about how greatly composition can elevate a text and invite the reader to become a co-creator of it. But as with everything, the composition can also have its own downsides.
The biggest risk you take by only speaking indirectly about what is happening in the text is that the reader needs help understanding what is happening or what is meant. As with so much else in this world, it’s a matter of balance. I’ve read books where there seems to be so much going on inside the characters, but without being told anything about what. The results of such writing can unfortunately be that I, as a reader, only feel excluded and rejected from the text.
There are books that have made me feel pretty stupid. The feeling is the same as when you find yourself in a context of people who have a history together and a long-standing jargon. Jokes and hints fly high over one’s head. And as with books, it’s easy to blame yourself – I’m obviously too stupid to understand this. That you occasionally find yourself in these situations, is of course nothing odd and you have to put up with it sometimes, but it feels unnecessary when books expose you to the same situation. The feeling of foolishness is rarely good.
One thing you have to keep in mind when working with composition is how much I can expect the reader to understand. And it depends entirely on the context. Moonlight during an evening walk, which I wrote about in my last post, most of us have experience with and is therefore quite risk-free. But if I move into an environment that most people don’t know, it’s immediately more difficult.
Cultural confusion can arise here – mainly regarding norms and unwritten rules within a group or societal culture. And therein also lies the criticism of composition that can be encountered today. Because what is to be read between the lines is usually based on knowledge and experience about what is described. If I lack that experience, the underlying meaning can completely pass me by, or become incomprehensible.
But on the other hand, much of the representation in the text concerns the general human, and we are all human. Most of the time, it’s about showing a person’s upset through action, for example, instead of writing “She was very upset!”. And if I’m not moving into a very odd environment with entirely different rules for behaviour, it will probably be understandable to the vast majority.
Mattias Kvick is a freelance cartoonist, artist, illustrator, and writer. Much of what he does is created in his studio in central Alingsås, Sweden, but the writing usually takes place in front of the computer in a small messy corner of the home in the same city. Mattias has worked with people with disabilities for over thirty years but in recent years has completely devoted himself to various freelance jobs. Mattias has appeared in a number of books as an illustrator, including the children’s book “Jag brukar vinka till en sten”, by Karin Askerin, Idus publishing house, and “Tiden är människornas ängel”, by Anna Widerberg, Visto publishing house. Since 2014, he has regularly drawn news pictures for Alingsås Tidning under the heading Kvicktänkt. During winter 2021/Spring 2022 he was represented with four works on Nordic Salon for contemporary art at Dunker’s Cultural Center in Helsingborg. In the fall of 2020, Mattias debuted as an author at Lange Forlag with the children’s book Pensionat Solvändan where he was responsible for both text and illustration. In 2022 an audiobook of Pensionat Solvändan came out with him as the narrator. He is part of team Lange and works with the production of our releases as an editor among things.