PAINTING WITH WORDS
I’ve alwaysequated writing with painting. Well, painting and magic but I’ll get more intothat later.
You see, when Itaught my children about writing, we’d start out with a sketch: bare bones. Letme show you.
The dog ran.
This gives youbasic information but it doesn’t tell you much. So we’ll add some color. Inthis case, literally.
The brown dog ran.
Still we don’thave much information. So we add a little more color.
The brown dog randown the street
Hmmm. Let’s justcut to the chase.
The brown dog randown the empty street, pausing to sniff at each intersection before franticallyresuming his mad dash.
In my imagination,I see this dog running between tall, grey buildings. Deep purple clouds skateacross a dusky sky that promises rain. But it wouldn’t do to just tell youthat. I have to show you, to transfer the image in my mind to yours.
You see the goalof each sentence is to paint a picture in your, the reader’s, head. But itdoesn’t stop there and this is where the magic is. I don’t know about you, butI’m curious about that dog now. Is he in search of someone? Is he lost? Was heabandoned? What’s his story? He’s caught my attention. I care. It’s my job, as a writer, to make youcare too.
So how do we dothat? Honestly, sometimes I do think it’s part magic. How else do you describearranging words in such a way to cause you to fall in love with characters, toreact passionately to love a story, to grown with the hero’s defeat and tear upwhen he finally succeeds? With words you can transfer emotion, ideas, thoughts,create realities. That’s heavy stuff.
Oh come on, didyou think I was going to share my secrets with you? Just kidding. Kinda.
A lot of it isfalling in love with the characters long before a reader sees the first word,and some of it before the first word is even typed. If I don’t cry with mycharacters, I don’t expect my readers to. If I’m not passionately angry butstrangely intrigued by my villain, I don’t expect any one else to be either.This means creating characters that existed before a time the book begins.
When creating aworld, it must be real to me. How did they get there? What would their historylessons by like? How do they pay for things? How are they governed? What dothey worship? Sometimes, there will only be a small mention, a tidbit here andthere, that makes it into the book. But these tidbits give an impression of acomplete world. A world with depth.
Tolkien did thisbetter than anyone I know. I read everything I could find on the love storybetween Aragorn and Arwen because he hinted at a complex history between thetwo of them, history that happened before the first book took place.
And then, it’staking all that information, going back to the beginning and creating thatrough sketch.
She knelt beforethe gravestone.
That’s my roughsketch sentence with one detail. I know the color of her hair, what’s she’swearing, and her emotional state. I can clearly see the surroundings and eventime of day and weather. I need to convey that to the reader, but I don’t needto put all that information in one sentence. What I will do is step by step,sentence by sentence paint a picture with words that will lead the reader intomy world.
If I did thisright, you’ll be able to see the rough sketch sentence parallels a rough sketchplot. You start with bare bones, adding color, depth, drama, until the picture,and story comes alive. It’s painting with words and I do believe it’s magic.
Thanks so much for blogging with me Shawna. I love your analogy for writing 🙂 You can find Shawna on Twitter!
Here’s the blurb:
Selia has run her family’s tavern since she was fifteen and can hunt and fight the equal of any man. When she rescues a badly wounded man and nurses him back to health, she has no idea she’s about to change not only her life, but also the destinies of two peoples…
The battered warrior is Svistra—a race of bloodthirsty savages determined to destroy her homeland. Or so the stories claim. Jaden reveals a different truth: how his ancestors were driven into the barren northern mountains. Now they are strong and war parties are pushing south wanting their land back.
The son of a Svistra Commander, Jaden is looking for a way to bring peace to both humans and Svistrans. He tries to ignore his growing passion for Selia, but when she is captured he has to decide what he would be willing to sacrifice to save the woman he loves…