Monday, February 8, 2010

Let's Get Technical

One of the most difficult, and difficult to teach aspects of writing is learning to visualize coherently.
When I sit down to write a scene, the first step for me (other writers approach it differently, of course) is to build a clear image in my mind. Often I can create a virtual model in my head, almost like a sculptor’s maquette, or scale model. I do this for settings, action sequences, characters, and emotions. It is like having a storeroom of models in my brain that I can revisit, as needed, for reference.
For some books, especially those with a large number of characters and settings, I draw rough sketches to help me keep things straight. I’m working on a book now with about forty named characters in a complex and unfamiliar setting. Here are a few of the characters.
Sometimes after I have made a sketch, the writing process forces me to change, say, the length of a character’s nose, or the location of a building on a map. I will then go back and alter the illustration. For example, in the map below I had to move and resize several of the buildings. Nothing is immutable until the book is published.
The sketch below is from the point of view of a character looking down into a river gorge. It’s a terrible drawing, but when I look at it, it helps me capture that woozy feeling of looking down from a great height.
I will probably make thirty or forty sketches for this book, most of them even looser than those displayed here. Sometimes all I need is the shape of a mouth to nail down a character, or a single line to give me the shape of a mountain, or a slash of color on a page to remind me of an emotion, or a stick-figure storyboard to outline an action sequence.
That's all for today! I may post more sketches later.

1 comment:

Blythe said...

Writers need to draw. The proof is in your books. I think one of the reasons that readers respond with videos is because your books are so visual. There is still plenty of room for imagination and innovation, but the core images are there.

Please do post more sketches.