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Thinking in pictures and writing

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Jabrosky, Feb 25, 2014.

  1. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    I've always had a propensity to think in pictures. I used to believe this was universal across humanity, but my mom says she lacks this ability, so I am not sure how common it really is. Anyway, one of the symptoms of this pictorial way of thinking is that most of my ideas come in the form of mental images. Sometimes I envision characters, or more specifically how they look and what they're doing. Other times I see some kind of scenery like a landscape or architecture. At my best I may even see a whole scene playing out like a movie.

    I believe this kind of visual daydreaming motivates my creativity more than anything else. I have pictures in my mind that excite me so much that I want to bring them to life. Sometimes I can do this through drawing, but very often I find my drawing skills aren't advanced enough to do my mental imagery justice. This may partly explain how I got interested in writing in the first place. If I can't draw something out, describing it in prose seems the next best thing.

    Herein comes my longstanding problem: there is a lot more to storytelling than simple imagination. It's one thing to picture how characters and their backdrops might look, or play a movie in my head about the characters doing things, but very few if any readers are satisfied with that. What they want is internal psychology, or personality growth, or theme, or anything else too intangible for me to envision. Furthermore, whenever I have a particular scene in my head, it can be a pain in the ass to expand that scene into a whole story that goes far beyond the pictures I wanted to describe. And then there is the whole modern demand for lean and tight writing that almost eschews description altogether.

    Epiphanies like this make me wonder whether writing is the right path for me after all. I love being creative, and I love sharing my imagination with the world, but having an imagination isn't enough to get anything done.

    EDIT: I expect I'll receive the response that writing or any other creative production is always hard work whether or not your mind works like mind. Maybe this is true, but I've always worried that I might have a psychological handicap that prevents me from accomplishing whatever it is I want to accomplish.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    Yes. In fact it's commonly suggested that you do it as a way of being more creative. "Visual Streaming," I think it's called, at least as a creative technique.

    I'm really bad at it.

    I can't tell you if writing is right for you or not. But it does sound like you would need to find a style of writing that lets you emphasize your creative strengths. Finding your voice is a challenge for every writer, and the loud call for that specific "tight" voice doesn't always help. My advice is that if you want to write descriptions and visuals, that you keep doing it, and try to find ways to make them relevant-and-compelling in their own right, instead of dropping your strengths to focus on your weaknesses on the advice of "tight" writing.
    Jabrosky likes this.
  3. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    I do think descriptions are my strongest area when writing. In fact describing things is probably my favorite aspect of writing altogether, at least as long I can shut off my inner critic.

    Thinking more about my OP, I don't think I will give up on writing just yet. All creative production requires work to one degree or another. My frustrations must have their root in low self-confidence and a poor work ethic (itself probably related to the low self-confidence) more than anything else.
  4. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

    I believe there are loads of writers who are highly descriptive who I wouldn't say would be considered tight writers. My interpretation of tight is that they cut things that are unnecessary. I'm not sure if that's the industry definition or not. Not all tight writing is always going to be engaging, the same way all descriptive writing may not be. Creativity is one of those intangible things. The reason Cormac McCarthy can write with minimal punctuation and others can't is one of those things I look to when people say, "it depends." In fiction, everything depends. I could write a story about vampire horses that some people may think sucks and other people may find genius. No matter how much people try to argue this, fiction, art, anything creative is going to be subjective. Hell, if the Mona Lisa was on Amazon, it'd probably get its fair share of 1-star reviews. "She's not smiling widely enough."

    I would say most readers do want more depth to the books they read. If it's just a series of scenes with no deeper meaning behind them, some may have a problem with that. But one thing about genre fiction that I think gets ignored a lot is that it's designed to be entertaining. I don't believe all work has to have deep themes or anything like that. If it's a fun, light adventure, then that's all it needs to be. If people want to divulge themes from it, it's up to them.

    That said, I like all kinds of fiction: deep, shallow, weird, serious, funny, descriptive, non-descriptive, whatever. I kind of feel like if all writers are following all the same standards of what writing is supposed to be, then we run into the problems some espouse about works being too similar.

    My advice to you: write something fun, adventurous, whatever. See how it makes you feel afterwards. Don't think about what every single prospective reader is going to think. Imagine your audience. Who are they? Maybe this will help. You're not going to make everyone happy. This way madness lies. :)
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2014
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  5. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    Characters can be pretty expressive even when they're not saying a word. Look at Final Fantasy VIII--the protagonist swings his sword like a man possessed; his mentor is calm and collected as she fights; his love interest clearly has no idea what she's doing . . . Of course, this is a lot easier to pull off in visual media (I know you can draw; have you tried comics?), but I think there's some capacity for it in writing as well. A grimace of frustration or grin of triumph can go a surprisingly long way towards illuminating characters' emotions at the same time they're doing something awesome.
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  6. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    I, too, am very fond of writing descriptions and I too have had my fair share of run-ins with the concept of tight writing. I might be lucky though because I quite enjoy wrestling with sentences and trying to get the most out of as few words as possible. For me, escapism is a big deal. I want my reader to feel like the world they're reading about is a real place and I want them to feel like they want to be there, or visit it.
    I won't stop with descriptions because it's not conducive to tight writing. I'll keep them in because they're part of the story I want to tell. Whether that's a story anyone (including myself) will want to read remains to be seen.

    One thing I try to do is to also include the feeling of the scene I describe, not just the look. If a scene is quiet and serene I try to make the shine through in the way I describe it - if it's dark and a little scary I want to make sure that comes through as well. Hopefully this will make the description connect better with the reader and not just be a list of words describing the way something looks.
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  7. sleepwriter

    sleepwriter Dreamer

    I tend to think the same way, in that I see pictures in my mind that I want to put into words (no mental movie skills unfortunately), and I've always run into the same problems you have. You have a really awesome landscape or scene but nothing to go with it. That's exactly why I've never finished anything before. Lately though, I've been able to push further than I've ever managed before. Maybe some of what's worked for me will help you :)

    I started asking myself questions about the scenes and places I had, which often led me to more and more scenes. This was great except that it was way to big to put into one coherent story. I would have been better writing a travelogue for my imaginary world. Instead, I narrowed things down by taking one scene I was particularly taken with and asking "what if" questions based off of that scene. As the questions progressed it turned into a rough plot outline including scenes and places I had previously envisioned but not known how to tie together. Here's what I came up with for my current WIP:

    What if Bram accidentally kidnapped sesani while making a shady black market trade?
    What if the woman he was trading with was an enchantress trying to turn men’s hearts to shadow?
    What if she had raised a palace of glass for herself out of the desert sands?
    What if bram had come across a secret ingredient necessary for her to carry out her work against men?
    What if she killed the middle man ad ran with the ingredient and that is why Bram had to chase her and since sesani was unconscious he had to bring her too and that’s why he kidnapped her?
    And what if while he was chasing the woman she worked some kind of magic that carried him far away from where he was?
    And what if before he was carried off she touched him with the uncompleted shadow magic so he didn’t get turned to shadow but he did get hurt so he had to follow her back to her palace to get the cure?
    And what if Sesani woke up and found bram unconscious and stayed with him because she didn’t know that he kidnapped her and she didn’t know what else to do?
    And what if she danced for him and they worked together to find the glass palace?
    And what if she started to learn magic from Bram?
    What if they stumbled on the bird people and stayed with them to try to get Bram well before realizing that he needed something else?
    What if the bird people taught sesani and bram more magic and how to bond with their giant birds?
    What if sesani turned out to be unnaturally talented with magic?
    What if sesani came to care for Bram and couldn’t stand to watch him suffer so she went after the enchantress?
    What if she killed the enchantress but couldn’t save Bram?
    What if, in a desperate attempt to save him she found the light temple and begged them to save him but they couldn’t?
    What if Bram died?
    What if she went into the eye of the light to purge him of the dark, and she saved him but on waking he wasn’t himself, or his memory was wiped completely?
    What if Bram’s life was so tragic before meeting sesani that this was a blessing?
    What if sesani and bram went on to become agents for the light temple, investigating and fighting darkness in the world?

    Granted, I wrote it just for my brainstorming so some thoughts look half-formed and other's contradict, but you can see how I went from initial scene to vague plot line. Many parts are scenes I had previously envisioned but not known how to connect while other's are ones that I thought of on the spot, inspired by the train of thought I was on. From there, it's just been a matter of doing the same work anyone else has to do when writing a story: character development, deeper outlining/plot development, and generally working out the kinks.
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  8. Xitra_Blud

    Xitra_Blud Sage

    I think the same way. Before I put any of my work on paper, I always watch as a "movie" in my head first. For me, this ensures it's theme, personal growth, internal psychology, etc. If it entertains me then perhaps it entertains someone else. When I started writing, I had no intention on sharing my stories. In fact, they didn't make their way to paper until many years later. They were just "movies" to entertain myself. And eventually I decided I wanted to take it to paper and not long after that I heard about publishing and so on and so forth. My advice is, if you enjoy writing, don't so much concern yourself about other people. Remember, whether a story is good or not is always subjective and while some may hate it others may enjoy it. I say, go with your instinct, and there's nothing wrong with having a few people (perhaps fellow writers) to look at your work and give you so advice and criticism. Honestly, I don't think anyone can tell you whether writing is right for you but you. That's something you can only decide for yourself, but I'd never encourage you to give up because your not sure. Give it a try and decide you what you want to do with it. There is no rule that says you have to sell or even share your work. Your stories can be strictly for you and you only. :)
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