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Thinking Visually in Novels by Anna Staniszewski
I must admit that I’m not a very visual person. When I picture a scene as I’m writing it, the details tend to be vague and blobby in my mind. Only after several revisions does the scene feel more concrete. Luckily, I’ve come up with a few strategies that help the process along.
1. Imagine with the senses Instead of only thinking about how something looks, I think about how it feels, smells, etc. If a character is holding a blue mug, does she keep running her finger over a chip on the side? Does the mug smell like coffee no matter how many times she washes it? Forcing myself to think beyond the visual helps me imagine the scene more completely, so that the visual details become stronger in the process.
2. Keep the character in mind It’s great to paint a picture for the reader, but I view passages of pure description as missed opportunities. Instead of simply stating that a character wears purple all the time, what if that detail tells us something more about her? Maybe purple is her favorite color because it reminds her of the grape lollipop her dad gave her the last time she saw him. Giving your details more dimension can give your characters added dimension too.
3. Repeat for emphasis We don’t want to hit readers over the head, but a strong repeated image, especially one whose meaning deepens over the course of the story, can work well for emphasis. This type of repetition can also work with the other senses, to help us show how the meaning of those experiences changes for the character over time. And that’s it! Of course, there are lots of other techniques I use to make my scenes more concrete, but these are the main ones that keep me on track and ensure that my characters aren’t just vague blobs floating around in empty space.
Bio: Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. Currently, she lives outside Boston with her husband and their crazy dog. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, daydreaming, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series and the Dirt Diary series. Her newest book, The Prank List, releases on July 1st from Sourcebooks.
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