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.