Visual Discovery Drafting

Krissie and Toni and I talked about the future and the Monday Street books last weekend, and that sent me back to the VooDooPad wiki we’d set up for the entire world of that series.  I hadn’t been back there for three years, so a lot of it was out of date, including the diagrams.  And since in my story, Cat lives in the church, I went back in and redid the church diagram I’d done to show Toni the layout since her Keely was going to be moving through the different levels, too.   And just like that, I was back in the story and I remembered how important those visuals are to me.

Like everybody else, I keep single pictures on Pinterest to evoke ideas for my stories, but I think single pictures are like single words: they convey one image with multiple meanings.  I just posted this in the comments in answer to Kelly’s comment about one word titles:

“You need at least two words to tell a story because it’s not the words, it’s the relationship between words that gives meaning. So one word titles are pretty meaningless.   Think of a title like “Ecstasy.” Sounds like erotica but could be about anything. But “Ecstasy Lost,” “Chocolate Ecstasy,” “Ecstasy Vanderbilt,” “Deep-Space Ecstacy,” or “Ecstasy Lite” are all different genres: grief stories or cookbooks or comedy or sf or whatever (or possibly all erotica). It’s the space between the words where story happens.”

And I think it’s the same thing with pictures, I think the minute you put another picture next to the first, the number of meanings drops to about one percent of the original picture and the focus intensifies; the space between the pictures tells the story.  The logical outcome of this is collage, but sometimes, for a single idea that I’m trying to nail down in my brain, two or three pictures will do it because of the relationship that develops in the. space between.  

Now that I think of it, it’s akin to negative space in drawing.  When I taught drawing to junior high students, I’d set up a still life and tell them to draw the shapes between the objects.  If they drew an apple, they’d draw their idea of an apple, not the apple that was there.  But if they had to draw the negative shape–the space between the apple and the pear next to it–that was something brand new that they had no previous idea of, and their drawing would be more accurate and more interesting.  The space between told the real shape of the object.

And the space between the words or pictures (or sometimes words and pictures) tells the story.

And here’s the diagram of Cat’s church that  I was working on when Krissie yelled at me to stop fruiting around with Monday Street and get back to Nita:

That’s more a map than capturing an idea, but it does  look like Cat to me.

And now I must get back to Nita.   





17 thoughts on “Visual Discovery Drafting

  1. I put together my very first story collage by hand about a month ago for the novel that I’ve been trying to finish for awhile (a very long while). Life got in the way, and I had to put writing to the side, but this week I’ve been able to work on the story some more and you’re so right. The juxtaposition of things really helps bring it all into one space and you can see not only the physical connections, but the internal ones.

    Short answer – doing a collage by hand helped me so much! (And it’s so much fun to just look at!)

  2. I’ll let you get back to Nita, but first, does that bit on the side say “The Bar” or “The Ear”? Just checking…

      1. There’s one in NYC. It originally said “bar” but the front part of the “b” fell off . . .

  3. And those photos tell a completely different story if you put Nita on Nick’s other side which is how I first saw them. That way they are, to me, guarding each other’s backs and being suspicious of the things which are coming at them.

    1. In the second act, he’s mostly puzzled by her and distracted by what’s happening to him. He’s still active, but he’s wary.
      She’s just hostile because of what’s happening to her island, but he saved her life and he knows what’s going on with the supernatural, so she sticks with him. And Button and Rab and Jeo. And Mort. And eventually Max. She keeps her circle pretty tight because more WTF keeps showing up.

      All of which is to say, in the second act, they’re not quite at the them-against-the-world stage. Still too much WTF for that.

  4. Thank you, you just explained to me why I’ve been drawing two tarot cards each morning, instead of just one – because two gives me a vector (math talk for magnitude and direction) and one just gives me a point. (For more math fruiting about, three points define a plane, and four define a volume) Things I’ve been thinking about as I create my own set of tarot designs.

  5. You probably know this, but there’s a church in Ravenna, Italy where goldfish swim in the crypt. The floor of the crypt (underwater) is a mosaic.

  6. On a few words telling a story I walked into the library in the next town a couple of years ago and saw a display titled Graphic Novels and immediately thought “Oh my god they’re highlighting erotica” I didn’t know comic books had been changed to graphic novels. So glad I didn’t say it out loud.

    1. Thank you for that link. That was fascinating. And more confirmation that writing, film, art, and music are all linked.

  7. I love all of your collages and essays about visual drafting so much, and yet it never seems to work for me (strange, since I’m a visual learner and also spent quite a bit of time in art classes and making art…). I tend more toward mood mixes (cassette, CD, or playlist…) but perhaps that’s something to do with how I process writing – I also have a very strong tendency to write nothing but dialog and have my critique partner yell at me about how I need to put in some damn description already.

    Maybe if I really got the hang of collage I would finally manage to describe scenery?!?

    Must be one of those “many roads to Oz” things. I’ll still keep finding your collages fascinating. 😀 And maybe someday I’ll do something with the Pinterest-boards of images I’ve collected, only to forget about until there’s another visual brainstorming post up on Argh….!

    1. Pinterest is the easiest was to collage without collaging. You don’t get the juxtaposition which is where the inspiration comes from, but you do get visuals.

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