March 4, 2015

Visually Crafting a Story

By Betty Thomason Owens

For years, I worked as an office manager for an engineering firm. We helped land developers bring their dreams to reality. The first step toward creation involved physically visiting the proposed site where the engineers made notes, took photographs, and drew sketches. They sent a survey crew to the site. A draftsman took their measurements and drew up an exact replica of the site. Plans for the proposed structure were drawn up and set on top of the surveyors’ representation. At this point in a large project, the engineers may create a model of the proposed structure.

What does this have to do with writing?

I don’t usually outline a story before I begin. I may jot down an idea then fill in things as I go. This lack of structure sometimes creates more work in the end, especially if a synopsis is required. But in thinking about my latest work-in-progress (WIP) which required more research, I realized a firm foundation was vital. I layered facts and dates, gleaned from research with storylines from my original idea.

Gradually, because I’m a little slow on the uptake at times, it began to make sense to me. After working so many years in the engineering industry, perhaps this was my best way to “design” a story--not with a traditional outline--but by layering with ideas and pictures until I had created a world of landscape, structures, and characters. Often utilizing Pinterest, I keep a board for my story ideas and fill it with photographs. I spend time looking at these photographs, then go back in and layer my story with details. These include color, texture, architectural features, landscaping, plants, etc.

Get the picture? Exactly. I’ve built a very real world for my characters to live in. And speaking of characters, I’ve found pictures of real people from the era and pinned those to my boards also. I even found the perfect wedding dress for my heroine.

Here’s how it works: I’m a Scrivener user, by the way. From my idea, I rough out a very short summary. I decide on my main characters and set them up in Scrivener, along with my idea for a location/setting (this may change). I create a new board in Pinterest. Then I’m off to the web to look for locations and ideas.

When I have a good foundation, I begin my story, referring back to the pictures whenever necessary to refresh my ideas. Have you guessed yet, that I’m a visual learner? Yes, it all connects back to your early education styles. You can easily adapt this to any style of learning, even add it to your outlines.
This is also an excellent way to push yourself through writer’s block. I’m not usually blocked, I’m just stalled. I need something to refuel my excitement over the project. Pictures can do that.
I hope I’ve sparked some new ideas in your writer’s mind. If you’re struggling with technique, perhaps you need to consider your learning style and adapt it to your writing.
Betty Thomason Owens writes romantic comedy, historical fiction, and fantasy-adventure. She has contributed hundreds of articles and interviews to various blogs around the Internet and is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), where she leads a critique group. She’s also a mentor, assisting other writers. She is a co-founder of a blog dedicated to inspiring writers, and a contributing editor for the soon-to-be launched online magazine, Imaginate. Her 20’s era romance, Amelia's Legacy, Book 1, Legacy Series, released October, 2014 (Write Integrity Press). She also writes contemporary stories as a co-author of A Dozen Apologies and its sequel, The Love Boat Bachelor, released January 26, 2015. She has two fantasy-adventure novels, The Lady of the Haven and A Gathering of Eagles, in a second edition published by Sign of the Whale BooksTM, an imprint of Olivia Kimbrell PressTM. Coming up next, a 1950’s historical novel based on the Book of Ruth, Annabelle’s Ruth, Book 1, Ruth Series (Write Integrity Press). You can connect with Betty on her personal webpage, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and at Writing Prompts & Thoughts & Ideas…Oh My!

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