Reading, Literary Painting a Picture vs. Light/Visual Novels

Whenever I’m in a situation where my mind is bubbling, bubbling, bubbling, and I lock myself down, I should either try to open a door to let things out (as I just did), or I should maybe just go and blog xP.

Let’s see, many things this post. I wondered earlier what animal I was most like and I think Turtle or Tortoise might be a good answer. I take things slowly and I’m a very soft person, but also with a shell that I retreat into a lot…well, I guess it’s not a perfect answer, but probably as good as any.

Spring allergy attack came a few months early this year, and I suffered a lot. I had to run out of social dance class and skip japanese–I was just feeling too miserable. Hope it gets better soon. Damn sun…this is one of the reasons I usually like Winter best out of all the seasons, but nooooo–weather has to be all funked up. Gah.

I realized today that some of what I said about video games probably applies to reading too. Specifically, the way that gamers have years of experience behind their backs that allows them to appreciate games in a completely different way than non-gamers might. I was looking at some writing and I realized that it’s because I never read all that much in my childhood (or maybe because I just didn’t read the right subset of things) that I don’t have an affinity for transforming words into images. I mean, I’ve always kind of known that, but it hit me with a stronger realization today. I thought about it and it makes perfect sense to me why I’m so unaccustomed to that style of writing that seems to pervade a lot of novels and such. It’s because it’s just something that I’m totally unfamiliar with. When you read this language, this language that has these phrases that seem to aim to paint a picture in your mind, it’s totally different than the kind of language that you use when you’re actually talking to people–totally different than the kind of language that you use when you’re thinking in your mind.

I provide a totally random excerpt from Moby Dick as reference:
The hatch, removed from the top of the works, now afforded a wide hearth in front of them. Standing on this were the Tartarean shapes of the pagan harpooneers, always the whale-ship’s stokers. With huge pronged poles they pitched hissing masses of blubber into the scalding pots, or stirred up the fires beneath, till the snaky flames darted, curling, out of the doors to catch them by the feet. The smoke rolled away in sullen heaps. To every pitch of the ship there was a pitch of the boiling oil, which seemed all eagerness to leap into their faces. Opposite the mouth of the works, on the further side of the wide wooden hearth, was the windlass. This served for a sea-sofa. Here lounged the watch, when not otherwise employed, looking into the red heat of the fire, till their eyes felt scorched in their heads. Their tawny features, now all begrimed with smoke and sweat, their matted beards, and the contrasting barbaric brilliancy of their teeth, all these were strangely revealed in the capricious emblazonings of the works. As they narrated to each other their unholy adventures, their tales of terror told in words of mirth; as their uncivilized laughter forked upwards out of them, like the flames from the furnace; as to and fro, in their front, the harpooneers wildly gesticulated with their huge pronged forks and dippers; as the wind howled on, and the sea leaped, and the ship groaned and dived, and yet steadfastly shot her red hell further and further into the blackness of the sea and the night, and scornfully champed the white bone in her mouth, and viciously spat round her on all sides; then the rushing Pequod, freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into that blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart of her monomaniac commander’s soul. –Chapter 96 (The Try-Works)

I’ve never thought this before ever, but to me (emphasis on “to me”) it’s almost getting to be as bad a research paper.

In contrast, here’s an excerpt from a random light novel:
Academy City had been built soon after the development of west Tokyo, and eighty percent of its population is composed of students. When Kamijou went to school, Himegami and Komoe were also at school. So, even if Index wanted to find someone to talk to, the streets would be empty; though, after spending a week exploring, Index had found that the young lady at the clothes shop would talk to her when she was not arranging the goods. Index felt, however, that her objective was not to talk to just her.

And I think this is why I like visual novels so much. Not just because it does the job of painting the picture for me visually with images–which is, after all, how we’re used to things being done in everyday life–but also because the reading is broken down and structured into passages that are much easier to digest. In a Visual Novel, you’d get presented with something more like this:
… but they were alive, here and now, in this place.

And so today I realized something as I looked at my friend’s writing and the descriptive language that again, aimed to paint a picture with words–I will never write like that. It’s just not something I do! To me, a story consists of actions, and thoughts. Actions and thoughts. It’s similar to the way that I think of music differently than some other people do. When I make music, I think of textures, soundscapes, chord motion, and rhythms. But when other people think about music, they think about words, and melodies.

And the analogy works in more ways than one! Because when I listen to music, I don’t like it to have words. Even when it does have words, I enjoy the textures and rhythms and chords more. And so if I’m really trying to appreciate a song, sometimes I’ll try to focus on everything -but- the words. And so that’s similar to how I don’t appreciate literary works that do this “painting a picture” business that I have never understood.

Not that I don’t enjoy -some- level of it. I just realize now very clearly why I don’t appreciate it in any heavy amount whatsoever. And it might be that way for a while, because the only way to appreciate this “painting a picture” business is to become better at it, and I’m already years behind, aren’t I? And moreover, it’s not something you ever practice in everyday life. When you describe your boring professor, you don’t describe him using analogies to mythical creatures; you don’t describe the shape of his chin, the way that he crinkles his nose, or the motion of his eyes, or the way that his hair moves when he walks, or the look he seems to have when he’s thinking about something. No…you simply say “he’s really boring–he talks so slowly!”, and that’s really all you needed to know anyways. And even when you -are- aiming to paint a picture, you do it much more directly–“Omg, I met this girl who has reallyy pretty hair!~ It’s black and goes down to here, and she has those really cute side-swept bangs that go like this, and she had her hair in a ponytail, and kyahhhh!”.

Manga fits into the picture here too, of course, somewhere alongside light novels and visual novels. Of course, I’ve also always said that visual novels entertain me better because they look and feel like a game, which is something that inherently interests me more. And of course, as a disclaimer, everything I’m saying here is a gross overgeneralization which is skewed to fit my own viewpoint.

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One thought on “Reading, Literary Painting a Picture vs. Light/Visual Novels

  1. artemis

    i like listening to songs in languages i don’t understand for similar reasons — it becomes more about the music and i can infuse whatever meaning or imagery i want. but pieces without human voices are some of the best, yah!

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