The Power of Pictures

I’ve never been much of a visually observant person. My husband laughs at me all the time because I won’t notice a new building going up or what color house someone has. I respond that I’d notice anything truly important, and he says that I don’t know what color his eyes are. Brown, I think. Right? Honey?

When I write, I have to force myself to add visual description (or any kind of sensory details, for that matter). I agonize over those sentences. Dialogue? Flies out pretty fast. Emotional reactions? No problem. But ask me what style of clothes my main character wears and I’m at a total loss.

A few authors I follow on Twitter or their blogs mentioned that they use online images for their main characters, and it really helped them visualize their characters. So I went searching, found a few images that maybe/sort of/kind of looked like my characters, but it didn’t do much for me.

When my writing group met last time (hello Jeannie, Rachel, and Kate!), they suggested that I make the antagonist of my new book much younger. I resisted for a while before I realized they were right, since there would be more intrigue involved that way. So I went on a hunt, and this is what I ended up with.

Marianna’s a high school teacher, so this isn’t exactly how she’d look in the book. But something about the joy in her expression and the bounce of her hair seems to help me imagine her so much better. The hair helps me, especially – those curls are quite the defining feature.

The other image that I found helps with how she dresses. In my online critique group, someone mentioned that it sounds like Marianna wears 50s clothes. I wanted her look to be distinctive, so I started looking for images of 50s clothes, and ended up with this:

The best thing about these pictures (dresses and character) is that it grounds me. I can describe one of these dresses exactly as I see it, and not be hampered by my lack of visual memory.

I’m keeping the picture of Marianna on my desktop right now, so when I need to remember what she looks like – or her spirit, even – I can remind myself with a glance.

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Six Sentence Sunday, 9/23/12

Six sentences from my current WIP:

Rachael stared four rows over and one row up at her friend Katie, but couldn’t get her attention. Katie was writing super-fast in her notebook, probably composing a letter about global warming to the president or something. Whatever she was doing, she was totally into it, pulling a curl around her index finger so tightly that Rachael worried she’d break the pinkish strands. Unless Rachael stood on her head naked and yelled out Katie’s name, there was no way she could pull her out of her Katie bubble.

Rachael sighed. No Katie distraction today.

GUTGAA Meet and Greet

As part of the month long “Gearing up to get an Agent” project at Deana Barnhart’s blog, the participants are doing a meet and greet with some interesting questions. Ready?

-Where do you write? About 99% of the time, at Starbucks. Every once in a while, a library or Barnes and Noble. Never, never at home.
-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see? Well… I’m in my PJs at my mother-in-law’s, so… let me imagine it instead. To my left is the next table. Revealing answer, no?
-Favorite time to write? Late afternoons, either after work or on the weekend.
-Drink of choice while writing? Iced venti skinny vanilla latte with three Splendas
-When writing , do you listen to music or do you need complete silence? White noise of other conversations & background music. I have a hard time with silence, but I also can’t write very well with my own music on, because it distracts me. I would want to sing along!
-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it? The inspiration for the book I’m writing now comes from my high school drama club and productions, and the intense admiration I had for so many adults when I was a teen.
-What’s your most valuable writing tip? Sorry this isn’t creative – just B.I.C. (butt in chair).