Wednesday, June 5, 2013

An Effective Use of Visual Aids in Writing





Have you ever cut a picture out of a magazine and posted it near your workstation because the model looked just like your imagined hero or heroine? Then whenever you struggle with a scene, a quick look at the posted image helped recall the character and his or her true motivations and mannerisms. That is one way to use a storyboard while writing a story, but have you ever considered accumulating materials for a story that is no more than an idea?

I suspect every writer has some place where they hoard ideas for future books. Perhaps it’s a notebook or a physical file where scraps of church bulletins or tattered napkins with jotted notes bulge. Perhaps it’s a computer document or maybe an entire file. I have all of them, but hopefully every hard copy has also made it to my computer folder. The wonderful thing about filing story ideas in computer is that you can attach photos which act as a visual backup.

For instance, once I was clearing out a house to use as a rental. It was quite a job because the previous owners had been pack rats since the late 1940’s. When the heaps and piles were cleared, the house revealed its personality. It felt as if I’d walked into the pages of a story I’d written. The tiny kitchen had the torn linoleum, Formica and chrome table, and chipped porcelain sink that I’d imagined as the domestic, well-used backdrop for father-son confrontations when the wife and mother was no longer there to referee.




With the permission of the current owner I snapped shots and filed them for when I develop that story. Even now as I think about the photos the smell and texture and atmosphere of that place rises, stirring up pseudo-memories of conversations and interactions between characters.

Do you use your own photographs or pictures from catalogs and magazines to create mood, place, or characters? Do you have a physical item to see and touch, such as a medal or a hand mirror that stimulates imagination? Do you make a notation in the file, "It was a summer evening like that Silver Hawks game we saw in 2008"? Or, do you simply hold an image in your mind as a backdrop?  Personally, I don't trust anything to memory these days. How about you?





Mary Allen, a lifelong Hoosier, has authored many articles and two books of poems, “Journey to Christmas” and “Ten Days to an Empty Tomb”. She also contributed stories to “Kernels of Hope” published by Majesty House. Allen was named La Porte County Poet Laureate 2010-2011. Follow her online at https://www.facebook.com/PoetAndWriterMaryAllen. She blogs monthly for www.thebarndoor.net.

10 comments:

  1. Very good article, Mary.

    I haven't used photos, and maybe I should. One setting in my story is a coffee house I frequented which now is closed. I sometimes do take notes of things I've seen.

    Jeff

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    1. When I'm in the midst of writing I think I'll never forget the images that I've created or those that prompted creations because they are so vivid. When I go back after awhile, I have forgotten. That's why I started supplementing with the photos.

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  2. I use photos ALL THE TIME. I have so many saved in folders on my laptop for different stories. While I'm working on a specific story for a long period of time, I'll print them out and put them on a bulletin board above my desk. :)

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    1. That's a good way to do it, Dawn. I have pictures of my heroine posted, too. It helps to glance up and ask, "What are you thinking?" In a tricky spot. Sometimes her answer surprises me, but that's all backstory and another topic altogeher.

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  3. Using real pictures was a new idea for me with my current WIP. So far, I love it. I'm starting a file for future reference. Thanks, Mary.

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    1. I'm sure it'll be a help. Good writing!

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  4. I always look on the internet for photos to use for my characters so I can picture them in my mind. Good reminder to all that pictures are worth a thousand words. :-)

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  5. All along in writing my China/Taiwan trilogy, I've used photos from my family's century of experiences there to inspire my historical novels. I've recently added some of those photos to my website and my novels (which are largely true), and readers love seeing them. . . I got that idea from the novel "Cane River" which was also inspired by the author's family's experiences. Great blog, Mary! :-)

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    1. Photos do add that personal element whether for ourselves or our readers. I miss pictures in storybooks. Thanks Millie.

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