Saturday, May 26, 2012

Illustrating the World

Because I'm also an artist, I find that it can be very helpful to have visual stimulus when writing. So I draw a great deal when I'm writing. Usually character sketches, animal concepts, and the occasional building, scene, etc.

This is Charlotte, the protagonist for Rules of Engagement, the novel I'm currently working on/breaking word count barriers with. (I got to 84K words today!)

Charlotte is a soldier, spy, and lady who disguises herself as a man for much of the book. This conflict of self and personality was something I wanted to draw, so I did this half and half piece to get it out.

Obviously, drawing isn't something all writers do, so I advocate heartily for finding someone who does. Seeing visual representations of your ideas can be very helpful.

You don't have to stick with just character concepts either. Sometimes we need to firm up a creature concept, design or even just get a better handle on size. To that end I did a quick series of animal sketches a while back for a story that still mulling through my brain.

This is Toby, AKA, an American Runner. A giant land bird much like an ostrich or emu except with heavier bones and body mass and larger head, shorter neck and more pronounced defensive features.

I did a bit of research along the way while designing him, needless to say, and am overall pleased with the result. More importantly, I was able to firmly establish some roots for the world I was building.

You can really get into this sort of development with landscape drawings and even city layouts, blueprints and other schematics. I find visual representations very helpful in keeping track of all sorts of things. I make maps, draw out command structures and make family trees. I occasionally sketch out pivotal sequences and do rough comics for some sections.

If I'm uncertain about a decision, it can be really helpful. With Rules of Engagement, I've needed a lot of maps and charts. There are battle plans, regiment movements and all sorts  of things I have to work out, know and decide on. It's like being a general.

You are always the commander of the army that is your story, but sometimes, renegade soldiers can tear things in a new direction. We can cover that in My Characters are Taking Over!

Remember, it's not a matter of talent, if you feel you can't do justice to your concept, get out there and find someone you think can. When I get frustrated by a character, or feel out of my comfort zone, I get out and find someone who draws the things I need and commission them. (I have a few standby artists I keep going back to) Or, you know, hit up a few artistic friends.

Good luck, and don't be afraid to put pencil to paper and illustrate your world!

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