IMAGE COMICS: In HINGES, the protagonist Orio rarely speaks. Her companion, Bauble, is silent, as well, resulting in a book that is occasionally silent for long stretches of time. Why'd you make this creative choice?
MEREDITH McCLAREN: There were two reasons. The first being that I don't trust myself with dialogue a lot of the time. I worry that I over-explain, or use confusing syntax. So I try to avoid it altogether if I can. At least initially.
The second reason was in response to Orio's character. She starts out in HINGES as a blank slate. She has virtually no will of her own and a lot of the decisions that will affect her life are being made by other characters. Her inability to "speak up" represents that. And the moments in which she does finally choose to speak show a major development in her growth.
IC: In a silent sequence, the bulk of the storytelling is left to the acting of the characters. What makes for good acting to you? Are there emotions or expressions you find yourself particularly good at depicting?
MM: Good acting to me is having the characters react and respond in ways that the audience recognizes from their daily lives. It's empathetic actions. Things the audience can see themselves doing in the place of the character.
It's sort of like... There was a study that found that people with botox in their face had a harder time recognizing emotions in other people. In studying this phenomena, scientists found that when Person A, with the full span of facial movement, encounters the facial expressions of Person B, Person A's own facial muscles would mimic making Person B's facial expression on a minute scale. And in so doing, activate the part of the brain associated with those expressions. Allowing for empathy.
When this ability to minutely imitate is taken away, our empathetic emotions are not triggered as easily.
It's the same for visual acting. If you recognize yourself making those movements in that place, you can connect those actions to the corresponding emotions and actually feel those emotions yourself.
That was a long answer. Sorry. This is why I aim for visual storytelling over dialogue.
To answer the second part of your question, it would be easier to tell you which emotion I'm distinctly not good at. Anger is a really challenging emotion for me to get across, for a lot of the reasons I touched on in the first half of this question. It's not to say I don't experience anger, but I very rarely get to act on it. As a result, I have difficulty expressing the emotion through my characters.
I think I'm pretty good with the rest of the spectrum of emotions.
IC: You color HINGES, as well as writing and drawing it. How early in the creative process do you begin thinking about color? What does the palette of HINGES say about the city of Cobble?
MM: I knew from the beginning that I wanted HINGES to be a colored comic, but most of my coloring process is a happy accident. I go about it in phases, where I first apply flat colors such as hair and skin color (which remain the same throughout the series). I then apply the lighting scheme for that scene. That's where a lot of the experimenting comes in. The colors chosen for the lights and shadows can lead to very interesting results. And then, finally, I make a last pass with emotive coloring, which tends to stress the feeling of the page, should there be anything significant like deep anger or sadness.
Despite the "good faith" approach to my coloring, I do try to at least steer each page in the direction of certain color tones and tints. For Cobble, I was definitely aiming for a city with age. So the colors are often muted a bit.
IC: What kind of person is Orio? Do you see her as a hero, someone caught up in something, or another way entirely?
MM: Orio is a person who fills voids. She finds the positions that are most needed to be filled and takes them. She doesn't do so with confidence, or out of a sense of moral obligation. She simply does what must be done, to the best of her ability, and in the hopes that she can do the job well enough.
IC: How do you describe the conflict in HINGES? It doesn't seem as easy as "Orio Against The World." What is Orio struggling against?
Within herself, Orio is struggling with her attachments to other people. Throughout HINGES, she has never handled being left on her own well.
Within the world of HINGES, there is a struggle with comfort and complacency. There's a pattern within multiple characters of doing things, or accepting things, because that is how things had always been done. (Such as the revelation that there were cities beyond Cobble.) Most of the characters really haven't gotten around to questioning that, because it's what they know and they're comfortable with that.
Bauble's appearance in Cobble begins a series of events wherein the characters face the consequences of these choices. And his presence in Orio's life repeatedly has her renegotiating what makes her comfortable.
IC: There are a lot of scenes in HINGES that feature someone acting in the background, like Alluet swiping cookies in Book 1. What do these little acts add to the storytelling for you?
MM: I think... I just didn't want people standing around. It's like "sonder", the realization that people have lives just as interesting and intricate as your own. Each of these characters are living out their own story. We're just seeing things from Orio's perspective. So it's natural that they'd be going about their business in the background.
HINGES Book One: CLOCKWORK CITY and HINGES Book Two: PAPER TIGERS are available now.