Friday, September 6, 2013
A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
That's what we've always heard, right? Yet we, the author, need to use those thousand words to paint a vivid, complete picture in the mind of the reader. We don't include photos or paintings or even stick figure drawings in our books. Instead we pull together words and weave nouns and adjectives, adverbs and pronouns to embellish the blank canvas of a reader's mind with brilliant colors and textures so they "see" the story clearly.
In the writer's mind we see the hero's shaggy dark hair in need of a haircut. His sapphire blue eyes should sparkle with laughter or pain or lust. We develop the imagery, provide definition to his muscular physique. We want the reader to know whether he's average height or taller than everyone around him. We can do this by showing him interacting with the people, places and things surrounding him, everyday ordinary items which make the hero realistic in real world situations. Sometimes we even have pictures of our hero on our computer or printed out to look at as we tell our tale.
But have we done our job?
Through descriptive prose, using only our words, does the reader see the same person we see? Can they see the single lock of hair that falls across his forehead when he's running across the frozen tundra, pelted by sleet, freezing rain, and roaring winds determined to get to the heroine? Or visualize the rivulet of sweat rolling across his naked chest, mingling with the dark mat of hair trailing downward to disappear into the waistband of his jeans as he's leading his lady fair through the rain forest, whisking her away to safety?
Have we used the right words and phrases to paint our villain as more than a black and white caricature from old Hollywood movies? We need to wield our words as the paintbrush, layering in the varying shades of gray, giving depth and dimension to him (or her). Shadows and light—make them become a living, breathing person with good and bad qualities just like every other person on the planet.
So, remember, choose your words wisely. After all, we are the artist with the paintbrush and blank canvas, the photographer pointing the camera lens ready to click the next shot. Let's hope our thousand words are worthy of the picture.