Clearly he’s reading one of my books, LOL. Must be an ARC.
Seriously tho. I need visuals. Sometimes I’ll see an image, a person, a place, and it sparks a scene or whole new story. Stories evolve from one small thing, individual, or concept. I am that person who can go to any event and be completely content observing people. Concerts. Yeah, I’m listening because I love music, but I’m not so much paying attention to what’s on stage (unless it’s Barbra Streisand). Nope, I’m looking at the dude who came in a sequins blazer, wishing I sat closer to be a student of him. Or the man who spilled his wife’s $12 frozen margarita all over the aisle and now everyone around him is pissed. Oh yes, people, that’s how and where writers get character ideas. We plot anywhere, everywhere. Be careful what you do in public. ‘Cause you may end up in someone’s book.
But THIS picture …
Who's that guy? I want to study this image. Every detail. Write about it. First, I love the tie, the suit, the mystery of why I don’t see his face. And what the heck is he doing on that laptop? Seriously!?! Turn that thing around! Is he on Facebook? Ooh, maybe Pinterest because there’s something top secret imbedded into a steak recipe on his Grillmaster board. Yeah, a recipe for danger. Instantly I thought of James Bond, then the opening of Adele’s "Skyfall" played that crescendo horn opening. This dude's picture caused me to have more questions than answers. It captured my attention, pulled me in, and that’s what visuals, and stories, should do.
Just as storytellers need words to tell the story, writers need visuals to imagine what the stories will say and ‘show’ to the readers. After all, how would a writer describe a character if the writer didn’t see that character in their head? Before a writer starts writing, she will already know her characters on a very personal basis. As in the character’s favorite color, food, clothing, down to shoe size and preferred brands. We also know what our characters don’t like. And their flaws. If we don’t know our characters, how will our readers ever learn them too?
So this guy …
His name is John. While John is a common name, John blends in. Even in that super fly suit. Undetected. He has to be incognito. It’s part of his job. He’s focused on a mission. It’s not something he can talk about. Not now, anyway. It’s too dangerous. And he needs to stay on task. Or someone will die.
He dresses well so you focus on that, instead. His fashion sense. Where did he get those clothes? Did a woman help him? Or, did he have the man-sense to do it himself? See, you’ve already forgotten that you know nothing about him or what he’s working on.
You’re salivating, itching to get to know him better, but he has to go. Now. He closes the laptop and stashes it into an equally masculine, black leather man-bag that looks brand new. Where did he get that bag? And what else is in it? You see some initials monogrammed on the side, but those too blend in so you can’t make out the letters. Sorry, he can’t tell you why he’s leaving, where he’s going, or if he’ll be back. You don’t even know his last name. Maybe knowing his full name would put your life in danger. As he leaves, other men study his swagger. Women turn their heads, nibble on their bottom lips, and imagine what it would be like to go to a formal event with him wearing that tie and her in a little black dress. The struggle is too real.
The outline of his sculpted body fades into the horizon the farther he walks away from you, then he rounds the corner at the same time as a black limo with tinted windows. Coincidence? No, there’s no such thing as coincidences. You wonder if he’s still walking or if he got into the black Maserati that was behind the black limo, which matched his suit, waiting to whisk him to a small airport where a private plane was on standby to take him to Tanzania. Or Monaco. Or … Hamilton, Bermuda. Where he’s the only man NOT wearing Bermuda shorts. In the middle of summer.
See? This one picture can go a million different ways. And I LOVE it. I love the imagination God designed in each of us. So next time you read a book, know the author had a strong visual of each character, setting, and plot. She saw the story happen in her mind, like a movie, and she transferred that visual into words for you to do the same, just in reverse as you read each word on the page.
While this post was about the visual, I do need some music as well on the writing journey. Unfortunately there's no song called "Who's That Guy," but there IS a song called "Who's That Girl." #80s represent!!!