Sunday, March 29, 2015

From Imagination to the Page

Photographs have colour. Two-dimensional yet full of depth and emotion and possibilities. Everyone who looks at a photo gets a different idea of what's going on, yet everyone sees exactly the same thing.

Photography is not easy by any means. Trying to capture that perfect image with just the right light, coming in at just the right angle. Too much light, not enough light. All problematic. But no matter what lighting effect is captured, what composition is created, the viewers still see a pier leading out to the water. A man sitting on a bench at the end of the pier. The blues, the greens, the subtle, perceived movement of the water. You see it. Don't you? Can you smell the water and the trees? Feel the breeze wash over your skin, licking at your hair with a feather tongue? The crunch of gravel under your feet?

But writers. Jeez. We got it extra hard. We are the only ones who see the images in our heads and our problems begin with trying to put that image on the page. Down to every last detail so that the reader sees what we see. We create whole worlds, characters, settings, landscapes, all with words.

How do we paint a scene on the page that a reader will see and understand? It's all in the senses. You know what I'm talking about. Sight, smell, touch, hear, taste.

Pretend you're blind for a moment. What sounds come to you when you think of your scene? Cars rushing, honking, squealing tires, tangled voices threading through a coffee shop. What do you smell? The fresh ground aroma of Arabica beans floating over tired, yawning heads. What do you taste? The bitter bite of coffee, no cream, no sugar. What do you feel? Hands folded around the warm ceramic cup, the heat rushing to meet the tips of the fingers, the coffee, scalding the tongue with the first sip.

This is imagery. This is what we writers are challenged to do every time we sit down to write. A sentence. A paragraph. A whole scene.

And it's not an easy task.

No wonder many of us turn to drinking in the quiet hours of the night, all these pictures floating around inside us and our fingers don't work fast enough to get them all out. Or we do get them out, but on the page it looks nothing like we imagined.

I suppose the same is for any artist. When the artwork doesn't turn out the way we wanted, we cringe and cry and pull our hair out. At least with writers, we can delete and edit, just as photographers can adjust the white balance and take another shot.

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