Friday, April 14, 2006

Images...Imagination...Dream Weaving

Sometimes writers put up pictures of celebrities/models/hunky dudes and suggest one might glean inspiration from said picture's buns, hair, eyes, or that hilarious phrase "man titties." (Not too sure about that part - some of them appear to need a bra.)

Alexandra - who had a run-in - but thankfully not a run-over - with a demented driver recently, once described how she collects pictures from magazines of interesting faces as possible models for future characters.
An excellent aide-memoire as well as impetus, I think. Clip art at its best.

But why stop at people?

Jason makes superb use of scenic photographs -mostly his own - as anchor and inspiration for his flash/ short stories.

Gabriele, not long ago put up a splendid picture of Melrose Abbey, crumbling into memory, bathed in a benediction of golden light.

Stories usually imagine better/ run better/read better if the writer has visualized the scene specifically and I suspect that the best, most vivid re-creations are based on real scenes/real people/real things, and not just the maps and floor plans that might accompany the text.

Not only that, certain pictures might inspire a story, a scene, like a haunting that lingers in the isolate of night.

Certainly, this is not a new idea to many of you, so please forgive me if I repeat it.

Pawing through some old photographs I found the one above. The photo may only suggest and signify to those who write on the edge of fantasy, but I think I must use it as inspiration one day.

Note: December Quinn, who sometimes posts here, has just made a sale of a historical romance, The Black Dragon, to Triskelion, an e-pub and print publisher. From the brief passages I read, I am enamoured with her hero.


Carla said...

I tend not to collect or post photographs, but I do use real places, or amalgams of real places. I think every location in my books is at least based on a real place. Quite often I get the location first and that helps to shape the story.

Erik Ivan James said...

What Carla just said. Except, I shape the story then fit in a location.

Bernita said...

I haven't collected photos with that in mind either, Carla, though I think it is a good idea.

I find I can't write the story unless I have the physical picture of the place in mind.I downloaded a number of aerial shots, old plans of Eden Hall, and local pictures, for example, before I could plan the movement of characters or abuse the distances, and details, like the Celtic Cross in the church yard worked their way into the story.

Sometimes, if I have an idea of a story, I must find a real location to set it in, which always seems to mean messauging ( poor pun intended) the story, Erik.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I know some people make storyboards with photos or magazine clippings that fit each character.

One I saw after I read the manuscript made me speechless, because the characters weren't anything like I'd pictured from reading the book.

I haven't done this yet. I'm sure I will at some point, but not yet. Oddly, I'm far more influenced by music.

But I love the picture, Bernita.

Dennie McDonald said...

cool pic...

when I write I see it as a movie reel almost in my mind - very visual to me - whether that conveys one the page ... don't know.

congrats DQ

Bernita said...

Thank you, Sandra. Taken somewhere north or west of Toronto, shocking as it might seem.

Those story boards seem to work for some people, not my thing, but it might be of tremendous help if one were doing a series or fitting a set of demanded conventions, or had the clear plot and used this method to individualize the characters.

Music moves me too far to use it while I'm writing, but the remembered images/emotions created by songs certainly influence.

Bernita said...

Glad you liked it, Dennie.
Taken in the Fall, of course.
Sometimes I "reel" the action and then go back to "reel" the sights, sounds, smells.

Ric said...

I don't use pictures - most of my settings are places I've been - but they are used through the filter of what I remember.

Of course, this can cause problems if you write that King St in Kitchener runs east and west...

But pictures, especially the one you posted, can certainly trigger a thousand ideas.

James Goodman said...

It depends on the project for me. When I wrote Darkness on the Plains (The first time,lol) I scoured libraries for pictures of people, building, etc. from that era, but for everything else I've put to paper, I only use my mind.

Anonymous said...

So much can spring from a picture. And since a picture isn't only a small clip of the world, your mind is free to create a new world around it. The one you posted is great. I'm struck by the fact that both people are not on the bridge at the same time. Some distance is there. And the figure on the bridge is bent. My mind is already racing....

Thanks for mention, mom! Next week I will be posting one of my pictures for the short fiction contest. I'll send it to you in case you'd like to post it also. :)

Bernita said...

Those frigging details, Ric!
One can spend more time getting those right than writing half the book.
It can be a double problem for historical writers or time travel writers trying to use historical scenes with any accuracy.
Things change. Hills disappear, bridges are moved. Roads change,streets move, even within lifetimes.

Bernita said...

Yes, James, sometimes we can dip in the well of memory for the details.

Oh Jason, I'd love too, but I don't know how, unless you send an e-mail I can print out and then scan.
Did you notice one is in white and one in black?

Rick said...

I'm like Dennie - I "see" scenes as though in a movie, whether or not it comes out on the page. My places are as unabashedly imaginary as the world they belong to.

The theft is at a more micro level, so to speak, the architectural elements of, or the look of a waterfront. I love your image, but what is it? Especially the bridge - I am a sucker for bridges.

Having said all the above, I would steal the old quad of UCLA - itself stolen from somewhere in Italy - except that it would be all wrong for my setting.

Sam said...

This is a really cool photo!!
I sometimes see pictures that remind me of my hero - heroine and I'll pin it to my buletin board. It's helpful!
And that is great about December's book!

Bernita said...

Rick of the lost land of Lyonesse...
"A land of matchless grace was Lyonesse
Glorious with rolling hills, rejoicing streams
Hoar monuments uprheared when Time was young
Wide plains of forrest, slopes of golden corn,
And stately castles crowning granite peaks."

I think the bridge crosses a mill race of a defunct factory and mill, but I am not absolutely certain.

I love bridges - and gates.

The thing that amazes me, Sam, is that it was taken here in Canada, yet it implies a scene a thousand years old and an ocean away.
Yes, good news about December. It's a really GOOD story in my opinion.

Robyn said...

Congrats, December!!

All sorts of pictures inspire stories for me. A tiny catalog of wedding dolls in the mail was the spark for four stories; I built them around the four distinct styles of dresses, which translated to four sisters.

I tend to "cast" my characters like a film, though details change. And places, especially castles, always tickle the muse.

Bernita said...

What a lovely thing, Robyn!

That moment when inspiration joins with the item - and makes another kind of real.

Gabriele C. said...

I need to visualise a scene before I can write it, character looks, scenery and atmosphere.

If I could draw I'd love to paint some of these images. Like Talorcan standing on the knoll, illuminted by a torch, golden light on his face, the figure outlined against a sky so dark a blue it's almost black, Cailthearn sitting at a camp fire in the foreground, the shades of more fires and some tree branches silhoutted, but not commanding the picture which centers on Talorcan.

I have a lot of images of places I've been stored in my mind (the pics on my blog are for share with my readers, not a memory aid for me) but in case I write about a setting I don't know, I try to get pictures from books and websites.

I imagine characters before I pick actors to play them, that's more of a fun exercise.

Gabriele C. said...

December Quinn,

congrats on the sale.

Martyn said...

I definitely like to begin with a very stong visual imprint in my mind of the setting of a piece of creative work.

Bernita said...

Oh yes, Gabriele!
Are there not particularly special scenes in our books we would like to see outside our imagination?

I might do that more with actors - except I don't watch enough television or see enough movies.

Thank you, Martyn, for coming by.
You have a very attractive blog, BTW.
I must see the scene also, maybe I have a prosaic foot, but that's the case.

Buffy said...

I know it's cliche....but a picture really is worth a thousand words.

I've written tomes on single images.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Congratulations December Quinn!!! Yahoo! Another writer sell!! That's great news...I know she must be excited!

I, like Carla, don't collect pictures for my writing...but I do collect them to post on my blog, like the series I'm doing right now on 3-D Street art.

I see my stories in my head...that's all the picture I need!

Bernita said...

I prefer to call that one a "truism", Buffy, to avoid the dismissive set.
And was tempted to say "ain't it the truth!"
Certainly 4 or 5 hundred words, anyway, depending on style.

I run the stories in my head, Bonnie, but sometimes they may be sparked by a picture.

Lisa Hunter said...

I'm sort of backwards in this discussion, because I collect vintage Hollywood photography. Not glamorous headshots of famous actors, but quirky photos of the action in old movies. Some of them are hilarious, others surreal. They make you wonder, What kind of story were they trying to tell? And if you don't realize they're movie stills, they're even more baffling and interesting.

Bernita said...

That's almost the plot for a story in itself, Lisa!

Be interesting to evolve stories from them and then find if they came anywhere near the originals, too.

For The Trees said...

I've found I write stories from one of two viewpoints: first, I see the place and the characters walk onto the stage, or second, I get the characters and action and then I plug in the place. It sort of depends.

I haven't gotten to the point where I need to write about a place I haven't been, yet.

Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

Loved the photo you posted, Bernita. The longer I looked at the enlarged image the more I saw. I can see why you find it to be inspiring.

I thoroughly enjoy creating collages and assemblages. I’m always clipping or collecting photos, scraps of text, magazine and catalog pictures and sundry materials for my projects. Since I’m a packrat, my supply of ephemera is seemingly endless (much to my husband’s chagrin) and quite varied.

Oddly enough, I don’t create the artwork specifically for my stories but, rather, for personal pleasure and relaxation. When I start a new book, my characters, settings and story ideas are already there inside my head, so I don’t feel the need for something tangible. I know that visualization is difficult for many people. Creating storyboards or even tacking a few pictures next to the computer or workspace is a wonderful idea.

For me, the mindless act of clipping and then the tranquil piecing together of the collected scraps is therapeutic--a real stress reducer. I complete the artwork by embellishing with my sketches or painting. I find that doing this, especially late at night or very early in the morning, stimulates my creativity and therefore improves my writing overall.

Bernita said...

Glad you enjoyed the photo, Daisy.

Your thingies are really clever.

I do something not quite as creative, but with the same blissfull mindlessness.
I cut out small pictures with various themes - medieval/Xmas/paintings/small scenes - glue them on white stock cardboard, give them a border with gold or silver glitter pen and flog them off on my children as name tag cards for gifts.
So relaxing.

December Quinn said...

Thanks everyone! You're all so kind.

I'm with Dennie and Rick-I "see" the book in my head, and generally just try to transcribe it. I often think that writing is a little like archaeology-the book is there, you're just trying to remove it whole from the dirt. (I might have read that analogy somewhere, so if you know where it came from, consider that my crediting the author.)

As far as pics, though, I don't use them. If pressed I can probably come up with someone my characters look like, but usually they're just themselves.

I do use music, though. I like to have it on when I write (something I recently discovered) and I always try to come up with a "theme song" or a song that kind of captures the essence of a character. Like Gruffydd from The Black Dragon is "Paint It, Black". The vampire hero in my current WIP is "Use Me" by Bill Withers (because it's sexy, not because he's a user or the relationship is anything like the one in the song. It's the tone that works.)