Sooner or later, I need pictures of my settings. This can be difficult because I’m making stuff up, so I end up doing really sloppy photoshop work. As with all the collages I use, the setting pictures aren’t art work, they’re brainstorming exercises (while I’m working on them) and touchstones (while I’m writing.) The best thing about them is the process: searching for things that feel like the setting (instead of look like the setting), thinking about what the picture needs, the details that my characters would see, the way the environment around it looks . . . all of that helps me get past “It’s a bar on a rainy cobblestone street.”
The book got far enough this week that I really needed the exterior of Hell Bar.
So here’s what I knew:
• It was in an old part of Deville, built in the 1800s.
• It was formerly Mammon’s townhouse.
• It’s original front windows were large and heavily paned.
• It was two stories, except then I realized after an image search that there weren’t many two story townhouses in the nineteenth centure so now it’s three which works better anyway.
• It was divided into the bar and Sandy’s diner.
• Mr. Shen’s Chinese take-out is on the other side of the bar.
• The street is cobblestone.
• The streetlights are reproduction.
So first I had to find a basic street photo from the 19th century. I went with this one:
This had a lot of things going for it. The street and sky were mostly empty. It had big windows in front. There was a storefront next to it that could be Mr. Shen’s. The only things I did to this image were to blank into a solid color the street, the sky, and the two big front windows. Drawbacks: the bay windows which were not part of the images I’d already done for Nick’s apartment, and the third story. But the third story actually solved a problem I had (where are Dag and Rab sleeping?) and I can fudge the bay windows in my brain, so I was good to go.
Then there were the details like shop signs and windowpanes. Again, this is not an art work, I’m not trying to fool anybody, I just needed an idea of what it would look like. Also I learned that the door to Sandy’s diner is actually double doors, the original front entrance to the house, and that the bar door is a retrofitted side window.
The next pass took out the sky entirely and added a cobblestone street and streetlights:
And then all I had to do was find a good moody sky to put behind everything:
And from much earlier last year, here’s the front room of Nick’s apartment over the bar (imagine that front window is a bay because I am):
These are, of course, terrible photo-shops, but they’re great placeholders for Nita’s book.
And now, back to writing.
APOLOGY: Because I am only half awake, I hit “publish” before this post was done which means that anybody on an e-mail subscription got half a post. REALLY SORRY ABOUT THAT.