Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Visual Aids

In the classic Star Trek episode "The Empath," Kirk, Spock and McCoy find themselves in a dark, featureless landscape (hmm, much like an empty soundstage) with a mute woman. A dramatic script made this one of the better third season tales. Still, when I look back on it, the episode reminds me of of my own writing back in high school, and not in a good way. Because what I frequently wrote at that time was dialogue in a featureless landscape. Unfortunately I wasn't trying to write plays, but novels.

I realized my writing needed to be more visually appealing to readers. So I worked hard at describing settings, clothes, and characters' features. Drawing and painting became an important sideline to my writing. In order to make the reader see what I was describing, I had to be able to visualize it myself. I searched constantly for pictures that looked like my characters. When I found a picture, I would often use it as a basis for a drawing of my own.

At that time I wrote with a friend, a much better artist than me (and now a professional graphic designer). Her drawings and paintings for our joint works were an incredible inspiration.

One thing I like about writing for EC/CP is that we can make suggestions about our covers. While we're somewhat limited by the images the artists have in their files, I must say they gave me what they asked for on my first two books. I was particularly pleased with my "One Thousand Brides" cover (written under my penname). I asked for a heroine in a bridal gown and a hero with cat ears and long hair, and that's exactly what I got. While I wouldn't have drawn my hero or heroine quite the same way, it came out as a very sexy cover.

Bronwyn talked about collaging in the entry previous to this one. Coincidentally, I was at a writers' retreat this past weekend where we spent 3 hours making collages for our books. I did one for the novel I'm working on, a time-travel romance where a Revolutionary War doctor dies and finds himself in the Waiting Room between Heaven and Hell. He's offered a chance to redeem himself by fighting a demon in modern-day Massachusetts. I doubted I'd be able to find pictures that expressed the book. To my surprise I found some good ones: a sundial with "The Centuries" written beside it, a man dressed in Colonial clothes (too old for my hero, but could be his father), a beach for the modern resort town where the story takes place. Best of all, a white building floating in a blue sky full of clouds--my "Waiting Room."

I'd encourage anyone who writes to try collaging--you might be surprised at what pops out at you when you start looking for book images.

Note: a few of my book drawings are on my website,
When you go to the sample chapters, some have an illustrations link.


IsabelleDrake said...
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IsabelleDrake said...

I agree, collaging will surprise you if you haven't done it before. I've also taken to drawing (even though I stink at it and will never share those crazy prictures.) Using self generated visual imagery is great for seeing characters and stories in a new light.