Images. A great way to improve writing

Images help in writing?

Most definitely. Maybe it’s not for every writer but imagery helps me focus on parts of a story. A building where something happens. The way someone looks. Important objects like for instance a ring or a necklace. Having a images to go back to when describing one of those subjects really can make a huge difference.

Let me give you an example.

winny schneider image

Some of you may have read the Naked Crow books. If you have, you’ve come across Winny Schneider, the woman with only one breast. It’s very helpful to have an image of someone who looks like her, to have a good reference, if only to remember which breast was removed. Mixing those up counts as a major no-no to me. Describing Winny is much easier with the help of this image.

I’ve tried to collect images on this place called Pinterest, but they dumped my account because it contained ‘porn and sexual activity’. Ehm. Well. People who know me can tell you that there are collections on Pinterest that really go into these realms. Not mine.¬†Another example would be the house and garden of Unsworth Manor.

This image actually shows a Dutch building but it worked for me while writing that story. Having that house as a place to work from helped a lot in imagining and creating the garden as well.

The details of the subject or object may get a bit blurred at times as the story progresses, but that’s fine. It’s fiction after all. As long as the walls of the building are standing, it’s fine.

The other way around can happen as well

Mirror Earth Network coverWith the third volume of the Mirror Earth series the opposite thing happened. I had figured out a character that in the end appeared to look different from what I had imagined. That happened because I asked around for an image of a body-painted man.

The body shape of the man was quite to the point which pleased me a lot, but in the story I had coloured in in a different fashion. Again, though, this is fiction, so I altered the story to make this character look like the person in the picture. The same happened to the colours of the girl in the image, by the way. Sometimes you just have to do stuff to make everything work.

And sometimes things just come together

After writing my very first naturist fiction, the original Naked Crow book, I only knew Sheila had blonde hair. I had found the Crow word for that, xx, and found it a great name. After finishing most of the story I looked for someone who could be Sheila, for the cover image, and this lady was perfect, so I bought the image. (I found it on a stock photo site which has sublime imagery for covers.)

From that moment on I knew more about Sheila, because I have her image.

The writing life is full of surprises…

4 thoughts on “Images. A great way to improve writing”

  1. It helps from a reader’s perspective too,because it makes it easier to visualize the story as it unfolds.By having images of people and places of the story in your mind,you can almost feel you’re a part of the story at times.

    1. That is very true. It makes covers important as well.
      The odd thing I sometimes hear is that someone doesn’t want an image of a person because they want to create their own interpretation of her or him. Which I can understand.

  2. Fascinating – I really appreciate and enjoy these insights.

    As a reader, I have a thing about maps. Maybe it derives in part from childhood reading – Arthur Ransome’s books often had maps showing the landscape (and waterscape!) within which the story was set.

    Tolkein tales have maps too, although I always felt they were too contrived (fantastical is fine, uncomfortably unreal isn’t?)

    The maps of a story can be carefully based on reality, as in Alan Garner’s books (and I strongly recommend anyone who likes his works to visit real-life Alderley Edge and other features of his landscape).

    Some authors clearly have very precise maps for their fiction, although I have no idea if they actually draw them out. Others have equally clearly not bothered with a map. I got increasingly irritated when reading Iris Murdoch’s _The Unicorn_, since I could not reconcile all the locations and walks / drives (etc) between them into a coherent geography. Since the physical relationship and/or extent of those locations are significant, along with matters such as where the sun would be, this distracted me from Murdoch’s development of plot and character. I didn’t go so far as to try to draw out a map of the novel’s setting, but mainly because I was sure it would be impossible.

    Getting back to Paul, whether or not he uses maps, I do find his tales’ landscapes consistent. For example, there are nice contrasts between the urban and rural elements in the _Naked Crow_ series, which also affect the practicalities of getting between the various As and Bs. These help me to visualise the unfolding stories, even if my mental images bear little or no relation to the mental or physical ones Paul used in writing the books!

    1. I don’t draw out maps, Tim. I walk around inside the story, I picture the environment in my head so I know where everything is.
      I could drive from the Native American Centre to the entrance of the Mighty Oaks almost with my eyes closed if it all were real.

      I’m very glad it works for you (and hopefully others too)!

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