Paratalk or torque?

My new column, with a title that somehow makes sense. From now on until I stop I will be examining a paragraph in whatever detail I choose. This is also a good time for guests to pop in and do their own paragraph.

Dragged off my shelf today is a Tintin adventure. The Land of Black Gold by Herge is the 15th Tintin book and just happens to be depicted on a tshirt I wear on occasion. The paragraph is:

It’s getting dark… We’ll have to spend the night here, tomorrow perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to meet someone…

What’s interesting about this paragraph is its brevity. The Tintin books are comic books. Herge first got his start creating comics for newspapers which were then collected into book format. A comic book needs a different format as you’ve got both text and illustration in one. Instead of having lots of words with some of them illustrated by a picture you’ve got the two melded into one with both text and picture sharing a frame to make a whole.

This paragraph is mixed with a paragraph by Snowy complaining about dates with both Snowy (the dog) and Tintin being under a date palm. The light in the previous few frames is much brighter as if the sun is higher but in this frame it’s beginning to get darker to illustrate the sun going down and the passing of time. This is reflected in the words ‘dark’ and ‘night’.

Something I’ve always found interesting about Tintin is the ellipses Herge employs. In this paragraph there are two and I feel they have two different uses. The first indicates the passage of time as Tintin stops to think about what to do next. The second indicates a tailing off of the thought processes to enable the reader to fill in whatever they feel necessary. If Herge had wanted to put in more words he would have had to use a larger frame. In this line of frames there are four and they vary in width depending on what Herge is showing. There are four lines of frames on this page. And there’s quite a bit of deception with the word count. Because the words are here in bits and pieces it looks as if there’s not too many words so it looks less frightening to a young reader. But I counted and there’s 148 words on this page, it’s about half the average word count on a page. Far more than I expected.

Anyway, if you’ve never read a Tintin book then this is a good one start with, actually, any of them are a good place to start as I’ve not read a bad Tintin book. Here’s an affiliate link for a paperback copy of this title. Should you decide to buy through this link then I’ll get a few cents for coffee.