Friday, March 28, 2014

An Exercise in Visualization (Magazine Edition)

I love art. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m mildly obsessed with French Impressionism…to the point that I’ve traveled to Paris twice in order to walk the halls of amazing art museums and tour Monet’s beautiful water lily pond.  Ironically, I’m coming to realize that I’m not a very visual person, or at least not when it comes to characters.  Description is one area of writing where I always feel myself struggling. I’ve never been a big fan of books that include detailed descriptions of clothing, sunsets, rolling hills, or almost anything out in the real world. (If you’ve read Games of Thrones then you won’t be too surprised to find that I haven’t read the series, particularly for exactly this reason!)  Weirdly (or maybe it’s not so weird), I can spend all day and night reading and writing descriptions of internal struggles, rationalizations, and thought processes. I guess I figure all of the really interesting stuff is happening inside of us, so why waste the reader’s time telling them the color of the wallpaper? I know, total psychologist mentality!

On a rational level, I completely understand why descriptions are not only needed, but are essential for good reading.  How can a reader imagine a character or scene if he or she has no idea where the characters are or what they look like? Unfortunately, when I try to force my brain to think about or write descriptions, I suddenly feel the need to start cleaning the kitchen or googling some celebrity rumor I heard. Clearly, I have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to this realm of writing.

Given all of this, the topic for this month’s SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) meeting was perfect for me.  We brought magazines to the meetings and spent the time chatting and searching through the pages for pictures that we could associate with our character(s). Once we found something useful, we were supposed to cut it out and paste it onto our “character collage.” As you can imagine, I felt myself struggling at first with this assignment.  I do have one rationalization for this, which is that my characters have fairly shitty lives and most magazines (that we had at least) featured smiling, happy people living in beautiful houses and eating yummy food. However, with a little concentration, I was able to find some pictures that could illustrate my two main characters (and some pictures that illustrated everything they didn’t have but desperately wanted.)

My collages for both characters  

The collages are not finished by any means, but I do like what I came up with.  Not only do I now have a tangible visualization to help me with each character, but I also have a new goal.  Starting now, when I flip through magazines or look at pictures, I’m going to try to see these images through the lenses of my characters. Would my female lead wear a certain dress or eat a certain food?  Which movie advertisement would my male lead be most interested in?  All of this information is pertinent and can tell me a lot about the characters, even if I never use it in my actual book.  I’m sure this will be an ongoing process for me, and one that I’ll write about again, but at least it’s a start!

No comments:

Post a Comment