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Sunday, January 20, 2013

How do YOU paint a picture with words?

Its has been said, "A picture paints a thousand words". And that's quite an apt expression for us to remember when it comes to writing a story.
Just as you find a number of different styles of painting - Modern - Classical - Impressionist - Abstract - Baroque - Cubist, etc, the same will be very true of writers.
I've just reached the end of another story myself. It's the final book of the first Guardians trilogy. And I asked myself this very question:
"How have I painted MY picture?"
Remember, I'm new. I'm still in transition if you like, from aspiring wannabe to aspiring/established author. I'm still adapting to the requirements of my new craft, and trying to adopt the necessities of the industry & my publisher.
Although I'm coming along, there are a few things I still have to do to make sure I don't get carried away...especially as I have a tendency to be "wordy".
When I've finished writing a chapter, I always check back through it for accuracy and "Flow". Is it easy to read? Does it gel? Are the transitions smooth?
eg...All the stuff a writer has to do anyway.
BUT - Once I've finished the 1st draft, I then go back to the beginning and read it through again.
THIS time, I check it for "Wordiness".
And I have to.
In previous blogs, I've explained a bit about my background. I've had years and years of intricate and detailed report writing shoved down my throat. At first THAT tendency spilled over into my writing.
If I was writing a fight scene - I thought I was making it "realistic" to describe every move, every twitch, every position of the foot and hand.
If the subject touched on something scientific, I'd explain every last detail to the nnnth degree!
I see now, what THAT can do to the flow of the story. If you're not careful, you actually dam the rhythm of the scene taking place.
So, in an effort to help me remember what I'm trying to do, I thought about painters.
They have a great many styles, and I thought..."How would I describe MY writing style in painting terms?"
The answer was quite easy. I love to draw. (Not Paint). Here are a few examples of some old book covers I drew.
AND - you've guessed it - when I do, I try to accurately reflect the scene/image I'm looking at with as much detail as possible...
(I mean...guess how long it took me to do these! I didn't bash them out in a few minutes - I can tell you!)
If I tried to do this in painting, it would come across as a Realist/Classic style. Masses of detail, very intricate, trying to capture every grain of sand on the beach. It would take months!
Can you imagine trying to read something like that? OUCH! YES, I'm thinking of my poor editors with my first submissions :/
So, as I approach my 2nd round draft, I'm going to take a leaf out of the book of a very talented artist I once knew, Alwyn Crawshaw.
For a time, (BEFORE I was married, I might add), his daughter and I were an item. Artistic flair ran in the family. He had his own TV series, a number of books on the market, etc, and no wonder. He was able to paint in a number of different styles.
The techniques and construct for each style could be astonishingly different, and as someone who was "Stuck" in the "mass of detail" rut, it always used to amaze me when he adopted an Impressionist style, especially with watercolor.
In a matter of minutes, he could lay down a few washes of color that would capture the moment perfectly!
No need to depict every blade of grass, no need to show every contour & knot in the bark of a tree. Just a simple lesson in the swift and accurate placement of all the main visual ingredients, and then..."ta-daaah!" He shed light on his depiction of a scene. His impression of it...and YOUR MIND filled in the rest and made it stand out!
THAT's what I want to capture as I go through my edits.
To be honest, I think it's what we should ALL aspire to as writers.
I want to capture the imagination of my readers. I want them to build my world in their minds. When I write, I have to remember to let them do that.
If I swamp them with too much detail, they're going to keep backpaddling to try and understand what the heck I'm going on about.
But - if I describe an action scene/fight scene/whatever scene - and do so simply, accurately, with the prime ingredients...and then add a wash of clarification to shed light on what I want to achieve...
Ah! THEN I'll be on the right track.
The melody I'm trying to write will have an easy rhythm from beginning to end. My story will flow naturally from sequence to sequence, even where there are scene changes. And my reader will be drawn along by the current of what I've created, so they can immerse themselves in a world of wonder that they want to be part of. A world THEY will fill out, in their own unique way.
So - how will turn out?
Stay tuned...I'll let you know by the size of my editor's headache :)

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