Okay, I know that’s a cliché, and writers really ought to avoid using them – but I’ve a good reason for introducing this blog that way. It’s all about IMAGE.
Look at the photo here. I took this at the filming of the BBC Antiques Roadshow in June this year. The guy carrying the picture frame has a story to tell. The subject of the painting is clearly a family ancestor, and this is a family visit, judging by the girl at his side and the baby in her arms. They probably told their story to one of the team of experts, and are now on their way home. I don’t know them. They don’t know me. But each of us have stories to tell – and you don’t need to be a writer to tell one!
I love this picture because it excites my imagination. Who are these people? What kind of history is there behind the painting? Is it valuable? Will they get much sleep tonight?
When I read a book, images tend to fill my brain. I see the story visually – assuming the writer has the skill to induce those images in my mind. So, this is my point: As a writer I have to use words to paint the pictures I see in my own mind. If I do it right, then the reader will be able to interpret those pictures in much the same way.
Suppose you lost your sight. A blind person cannot see the text on a page, but once taught how to use braille, they can visualise what has been written. Images are important to us all, because they are a fundamental part of the story-telling process.
So, to digress slightly, one of my passions in life has been photography. I’ve used all manner of cameras in my time, but since the digital era and the arrival of smartphones, I can enjoy the facility of being a photographer at any moment of the day. All it takes is to pull my phone from my pocket. I’ve now joined the Flickr community, and started to make some of my efforts public – but only those that tell a story! The first 25 are on there now, including the antique one, so if you’d like to sample more of my creativities, click on the Flickr logo below.
Writers tend to be solitary creatures. It takes a little effort to tempt us out and actually talk to people – but when we do, it’s often difficult to shut us up. Especially if we’re talking about our own work.
That was in my mind when I went to a literary festival recently, and sat through two very different talks given by two very different writers. One spoke quickly, almost desperate to provide us with as much information about his work as he could. The other spoke in more measured tones, seeking eye contact, and making every effort to explain the processes that went into her work. Neither wrote full time, having another profession to help with income. Now, one was a teacher, and the other a solicitor, and I’m inviting you to guess which was which? I’ll tell you the answer later in this blog.
I’ve reached an important point in my present project. The last bit! Three quarters of my story has now been committed to the keyboard, and I’m faced with pulling together all those little ‘threads’ that were sown into my plot over the last 65,000 words. This is intended to be a thriller, and so there are revelations ahead, probably a couple of deaths, and a surprise or two while I quietly inform the reader what precisely has been going on since they started at page one. Speaking of which, you may like to know some statistics from my writer’s toolbox: The overall length of my first novel was a little over 85,000 words, and I intend this one to be similar. That means around 250 pages in the paperback edition. Putting the number of words in perspective, the length of this blog is 500 words, so my finished novel should be 170 times longer than the piece you are currently reading! Incidentally, while the chapters in my first book ran to 27, I estimate there will be around 52 in this one – so considerably shorter, as befits the genre style today.
My background is in the theatre, and the civil service. Does that come across in my work? Possibly not. But I do feel that the former helps me create realistic dialogue, and the latter has been good training for being methodical in my planning, and able to work with a fixed target in mind. So, what of those other authors I spoke of earlier? Their manner of presentation did not match their professions, in my view. It was the teacher who came across better, with her natural communication skills (she told me afterwards she was extremely nervous, which didn’t show.) I thought a solicitor, with the demands of court appearances and a need to interpret complex legal processes, would have been more disciplined and measured in his speaking style, but no. I’m sure that doesn’t reflect in his writing, but it just goes to show how our initial perceptions can be deceptive.
Here’s an original thought: Don’t judge an author by his cover.
Need to know:
(I don’t just write fiction.