Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Anita's Attic:Visualizing Your Story

I think all writers create their stories in layers. Whether you're a plotter or a pantser, I don't know anyone who can write a brilliant story with the first draft. I'm somewhere between a plotter and a pantser myself. I do plot out the story, but it's VERY open to change and in fact it always changes, because I get my best ideas later in the story. That excites me, frustrates me, and frankly, it puzzles me. Why can't I think it through before I write?

As we all know, writing is hard work, and while it's so rewarding to see the story building and growing, it's tricky to go back and pull all those threads together, old ones and the new, and make it come together. Part of my problem is that I can't see the setting or the characters clearly. I know that sounds crazy, but it's true. Lots of writers can perfectly envision their characters and the setting. I can't. I can see the plot and I can see the movement of the story as if on a stage, but it's in a vague way. If I have a house, or a castle as is usually the case, it may look different in my head each time I sit down to write. That wouldn't be so bad if the darned picture was at least clear. It's all vague. As I told my husband yesterday, any accolades I get on my writing should be doubled, because it's as if I'm writing blind.

I think this is why I'm finding movies so inspiring. I can see the thing in them that I can't clearly see in my head. My hubby and I watched the new Sherlock Holmes this weekend. I was so inspired with the overall plot. We watched an Agatha Christie (Miss Marple) that we'd recorded. It was a amazing. Secret passages, just like in my story. There they were. I could see them. Then we watched part of a James Bond. Wow, there was the fancy hotel in my story, the one I couldn't picture.

One thing I've learned is that we're all good at different things. I'm good with plot and even though I can't visualize my characters and settings as clearly as I would like, I do manage to pull it together. So there's hope for everyone! I had one reader write to me that she loved how I describe things, not so overdone that she got bored and started skimming, but just enough so that her own imagine kicked in. So I guess it's not hopeless. But my dream is to see the story clearly and get all those great ideas in earlier so I don't have to go back and make changes. Ideally, BEFORE I even start writing. Guess I'll have to see lots of movies.

22 comments:

Terry Spear said...

Hi, Anita!

I can't visualize the characters until they begin their journey. As they act and react to conflict, their characters begin to emerge. I plot their goals, motivations, and how they meet, but beyond that? It's a mystery. :)

Mysteries and Margaritas Writers--I have to say I LOVED your photo header. What a cute idea!

Suzanne Johnson said...

Hi Anita--your process sounds a bit like mine, actually. My first draft is just to get the plot worked out, then I go through a couple of passes layering in detail, including all that visualization. I just can't get it the first time through.

Carlene Love Flores said...

Good morning, Anita! Maybe it's an argument for the right brain/left brain folks to take up. My dilemma seems to be the exact opposite of yours where I have very distinct visions of people but have to work to carve them out a plot. I willl say without a doubt, you must have found the secret in working it out because your books are spectacular!

Vonnie Davis said...

Wow, Anita, I'm blogging about the same topic today--in a different manner. My characters come to me in flash visions, dreams really, in my sleep. A man comes roaring in on a Harley or slams a door in anger. I have an overall idea for a plot, but never know where my characters will take me. I know how I want it all to end, but the journey is always a surprise. Great post!

Liz Lipperman said...

I like watching movies, too, Anita. As an OCD plotter, I usually get story ideas from them. It is always nice to get a visual with a particular scene, though. Next weekend I am going to the Mississippi Italian Festival to get a sense of that since my next book is centered on a festival like that. Like you, seeing it makes a much bigger impression on me.

Liz Lipperman said...

Forgot to say, thanks to Terry for her comment on our header. We had so much fun making it.

Tiffinie Helmer said...

Anita, I'm trying to be a better plotter. It's hard. But it's harder when I get stuck because I don't know where I need to go next. I'm currently suck and trying to figure out where I went wrong or where I need to head next. I really need to plot the next book to death. Maybe Liz can give us an OCD lesson on how. As for visualizing, I always have a clear picture of where I'm at just not where I'm going. :)

Tiffinie Helmer said...

Oh, and that was stuck not suck, but it does suck to be stuck.

Must edit more.

Lindsay said...

When I start a story I have a general idea of what's going to happen but that's it. Yes, I'm proud to say I'm a panster.
Sometimes when I am writing a scene if I have trouble visualizing it I'll surf the web for pictures of what I want it to look like. I'll then print out the picture so I can look at it as I'm writing. This happens most frequently when I'm describing a building I've never seen or only have a vague idea what it looks like. When I get to the finer details, like a room, those I can see and describe with greater ease and often don't need a picture.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I not only see everything very clearly, but the details stubbornly will not change even when I need them to for the story. I literally inhabit the body of the POV I'm working on, so I see, hear, feel what they do. Helps to keep from head-hopping. :-) Allyson

Anita Clenney said...

Hi Terry! Yay, I'm so glad to see you here. I've missed you. I have such a hard time getting things in my head. It drives me insane.

Anita Clenney said...

Suzanne, I really don't think anyone gets it right the first time. Nora might come close with as many books as she's written. :)

Anita Clenney said...

Carlene, thank you! I think my writing is proof that you don't have to be perfect to be published. :) I can see the plot, but I wish I could see the settings clearer. I can see them, they're just not sharp.

Anita Clenney said...

Vonnie, I'll hop over and take a look at your blog. I get ideas in dreams. Awaken started with a dream. And my best brainstorming comes when i'm trying to sleep, and lately, watching movies. My characters are definite but not clear. I can describe them but can't see them clearly. It's like having blurry vision. :)

Anita Clenney said...

Liz, that sounds like fun. I've really found inspiration in movies lately. I do think it helps me to see the elements so clearly. It helps me take things to a more powerful level.

Anita Clenney said...

Tiffinie, I know what you mean. That's my worst problem as a writer. If I get stuck on something I just can't move around it. I can waste TONS of time spinning my wheels. Maybe you should throw your issue out for some opinions. I find brainstorming with someone is a great unblocker. :)

Anita Clenney said...

Tiffinie, shows you how blind I am. I didn't even notice. :)

Anita Clenney said...

Lindsay, I like pictures too. I usually have a file for each story and I'll just cut and paste pictures of castles, swords, boxes, people, whatever. I do find that helps. What I don't do, but should, is put them up where I can see them.

Anita Clenney said...

Allyson, I wish I could see clearly. I don't have any problems with pov, I'm firmly in that person's head, but I wish they could see where they were clearly. My current book has a castle. I know vaguely what it looks like, but not exactly. When the heroine is slipping through a secret passageway into a cemetery, I can sort of see it, but not clearly. It drives me nuts. But the important thing is that I don't let it stop me. I write it as powerful as I can so my vagueness isn't evident.:)

Anita Clenney said...

Terry, YES, thank you for the compliment on the header. My daughter took my picture. She's so excited that a picture she took is being used officially on a website. She's only 11. She was 10 when she took the picture.

Keely Thrall said...

Hi Anita! Very inspiring post - I agree with you - each of us has our talents and we need to celebrate our strengths and not always rush to point out to everyone where our rough spots are hidden (or in plain sight as the case so often is...). And writing despite your "blindness"? That's Jo Beverly's "Flying into the Mist," right? Awesome!
Keely

Anita Clenney said...

Keely, a million thanks for the reference to Jo Beverly's flying in the mist. I had never heard of it so I went and looked it up. It's exactly what I needed right now. Wow, just wow!

Although I tend to lean toward the plotter side of writing, my best ideas seem to come after the story is in progress, when I let my mind go. Then, the story goes where it wants. I still won't see my character's face clearly or I might not see the room in sharp detail, but I can give the reader enough to stir her imagination. And best of all, the delicious twists and turns of the plot will be there.