Saturday, November 10, 2012

Visual Aids to Writing

By Kaye  George

I know many people use charts and other visual aids for plotting, but this one is new to me. It’s not a new concept by any means, but my TBR stack of articles has been there for quite a while and the printouts of Jennifer Crusie’s blogs just came to the top this week. Take a look at these two:

When I read these, I realized I had done this, somewhat, when writing my Neanderthal mystery. I needed a lot of help visualizing the people for this novel. I wanted to keep in mind what they looked like--that they were not modern humans, but not animals either. I found the best pictures I could and even assigned some of the pictures to the individuals.

I’ve never done so much research for anything in my life. I wanted the story to be as accurate as I could make it. I set it in North America 30,000 years ago, as the last Ice Age was approaching and as the Neanderthals were living their last days on earth as a separate group of people. The Mississippi River didn’t exist, so I had to know what the terrain was like. I had to find out what an approaching glacier would look like, since all of them are receding now. Plants, animals, climate, housing, clothing, I had pictures of it all. Plus, I drew a map of the settlement and the surroundings, after figuring out how far a bunch of people could move in a day. Whew!

Fast forward to the FAT CAT series I’m writing. I had to spend a few weeks away from it to finish up my project for Barking Rain Press, and I was very worried about getting back into it. Crusie claims that a collage is a cure for that. If it really is, I’m all for it. As I read her articles, I thought, “This is great! It will solve my problems.”

Then another light bulb lit up! I already have a bunch of pictorial helps--on Pinterest! I started some boards as soon as I got the deal, just thinking they might do some good. I have a Dessert Bar board and one for Fat Cats! If you glance at my boards (, you’ll see they all relate to something I’m writing in some way. I’ll need one on Minneapolis, or maybe Dinkeytown, the setting for the series. Or maybe I should combine all of those for myself. Since Pinterest just announced the new Secret Boards, I can experiment and see what I come up with. I’m looking forward to this!

However, I can’t find any illustrations of collages. Oh well. Click on some of the fantastic ones on the second Crusie link--they’re super duper!
Lightbulb & Glacier from Dreamstime


Patg said...

I feel the use of visual aids helps a lot. I found Pinterest useful for collecting pictures of Brownstones for one of my WIPs very helpful. Unfortunately, they are not so useful for my Martian WIP. JPL is much better.

Kaye George said...

I'm sure I've thought of this later than a lot of people, including you, Pat! What's JPL?

Patricia Gligor said...

When I was writing "Mixed Messages," the first novel in my Malone mystery series, I took several photographs of the house and neighborhood which served as the inspiration for my series. I pinned them to the bulletin board above my desk. The novel takes place the week of Halloween and, since I was writing when the temperature outside was ninety degrees, the photos kept me in the season. I did the same thing for the sequel, "Unfinished Business," which takes place the week of Christmas. I love visual aids!

Kaye George said...

I've never been really intentional about it, but I can see that it would be so helpful. I'm trying a collage for my Fat Cat series, for sure.

Morgan Mandel said...

I really hate doing research, but it's a necessary evil. As far as using visual aids, it would probably be helpful, but the only time I use them is when I'm almost through with a book and am looking for contents for the cover. I've been known to change a character's description to fit a particular photo I like, so it can be used for the cover.

Morgan Mandel

Kaye George said...

Morgan, that's genius to keep the cover in mind! I changed a character after I saw a proposed cover. Well, a pig, if that's a character. I had made him black with a white forehead star, but a white pig showed up so much better on the cover. And--doh--I had already named the pig Marshmallow. Of course, he should be white! I have zillions of pix of pot belly pigs, but am now happy to have him on a book cover (SMOKE).

Kathleen Kaska said...

I like this idea, Kaye. I never thought of using visual aids, but it makes sense. It might be another tool to use when I get stuck. Thanks for sharing.

Kaye George said...

You're welcome, Kathleen. I have a start on a secret Pinterest board, but it's not doing much for me yet. I'll keep going with it for awhile, but may have to do an actual collage