editing, world-building, writing

Concept Art

I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m more of an audible reader/writer – I don’t tend to visualize stories as I read them/write them. I hear them in my head, instead (one reason why I rarely bother to read to stories aloud when I’m editing them. Since I hear it as I write it, reading aloud is redundant).

This means that I tend to write my characters all in “white space.” I’ve had to train myself to write in background details for scenes, so that my characters aren’t all talking heads.

This also means that when I placed my sci-fi novella-turned-novel From the Shadows on a futuristic spaceship, I didn’t bother visualizing how the spaceship would look, its design, or anything beyond a vague “sleek and shiny.”

I knew I would need to get more detailed at some point, but when Amanda and I were discussing elements for the cover and decided that it needed an image of the ship on it somewhere, I had to buckle down and figure out exactly what it looked like.

This led to figuring out logistics as well, what parts of the ship did what, and a rough sketch of the outline to send to Amanda so she could see what I had imagined.

I never claimed to be a great artist
I never claimed to be a great artist

Somewhat to my surprise, it was fun, sketching it and plotting it and detailing it. (I have a rough plan of the inside layout of the ship, too, but that isn’t even close to fit for other people to see – I need to polish it up.) And it has helped with the writing, as well – knowing what the setting looks like in my mind helps me to unconsciously write more natural details into the scenes and keep the characters from being the talking heads I veer toward so naturally.

I’ve been toying with the idea of once in a while sketching out scenes from my books now, in hopes that it strengthens my ability to be a visual as well as auditory writer, and that it makes for more detailed writing and a fuller experience for the readers.

(Also, it makes me wicked excited to see how Amanda incorporates the ship into the cover art.)

3 thoughts on “Concept Art”

  1. Interesting – I guess by that description, I’m a “movie” writer – I visualise exactly who is standing where and what they’re doing with their hands as they’re talking, which leads to totally over-describing every little bit (if a character just picked up something to fiddle with, I *have* to make him put it down first before he can reach out and shake someone’s hand…). And the interior scenes, I pan around them like I’m using a movie camera: there’s a chair, right next to it a fireplace with a broom leaning up against it, etc etc… Way TMI, I know. Maybe we should combine our writing – with your under-description, and my over-description, we could hit a happy medium. :)

    Interestingly enough, I don’t do that over-describing for landscapes, though; even when I’m reading, I skip over landscape descriptions. Tolkien was a great landscape describer; I heard somewhere that he said he had every tree exactly visualised. And he did concept art, too – have you ever seen the drawings in the original edition of “The Hobbit”? I love them, they tell you exactly what he was seeing in his head as he wrote.
    Maybe I should do that sometime, too, just for fun…

    1. The writers that leave me in the most awe are the ones like CS Lewis and Lloyd Alexander, who use the briefest of descriptions and yet manage to paint a beautiful picture in their readers’ minds. I have no idea how they did that.

      I’ve never seen Tolkien’s drawings, except the covers he’d originally designed for LOTR. I’d love to look at what he drew for The Hobbit sometime, I’ll have to see if I can find them online.

      I have gotten to the point where usually my characters are more than heads – they have bodies, and they can hold things, move around, do that sort of thing. They’re just still usually floating in an amorphous atmosphere. Still, progress.

      1. If you do a Google Image search for “Tolkien Hobbit Illustrations”, the first dozen hits or so are his own drawings – pen & ink, quite stylized. Very cool. And they’re in the book that has the cover with the blue mountains and green trees (which in my search is the first image that comes up).

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