Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Images Instead of Words

Quick one today - and yes, I really mean that this time, because I have a lot of other stuff to do. For one, all of your comments were so helpful (seriously) that I've been off and running with my plotting, and two, the Olympics are on. And political controversy and human rights concerns aside, I love the Olympics. There's something about watching athletes stretch and challenge the limits of what the human body can do, and excel with such determination and grace, that just utterly captures my imagination and my heart.

There. I said it. I'm a sucker.

Anyway, I'm still working on Ancient Greece, banging out the details of the plot, which means that I don't have a whole of new thoughts to write about here yet. So I thought I'd share a little piece of what I do when I'm developing a novel: I get heavily involved with Google image search.

Now, I don't often do this for my characters, because I usually can't find anything that captures the way they look in my head; most searches leave me feeling disappointed and irritated. For example, an image search for "Apollo Greek god" will turn up a wide variety of pictures, from the classical to the artistic to the romantic, but none of them come close to how I see him: tall and athletic, with short curling blond hair, serious but bright eyes, and a body that a male model would kill for. Not a bad mental picture, huh?

Where I do find a lot of inspiration, and a lot of success, is when I search for images about a place. I need to be able to describe how any given setting looks, but a really good image will fire also my imagination, and give me a little flash of an idea that I can work on. I've got a bunch of these for Ancient Greece.

First, Mount Olympus:


There are a ton of images out there of Olympus, but I love this one because it's mysterious and otherworldly - a place I imagine the gods might live. Plus, it's often described as wreathed in clouds, which is a fantastic image. This one led me to wonder about how Apollo's mortal lover might see the mountain in its veil of clouds, and what he might think about the beings who live there - which gave me great insight into his character.

Then there's this one of the same mountain:


Very different, yes? I often imagine the Greek slopes like this: bare, desolate, and ancient. I imagined Damon, Apollo's lover (yes, I changed his name), herding his flocks of sheep on slopes like this, and this lead to my idea for the scene where Apollo first sees him.

Finally, there's this very modern picture of one of Apollo's temples:


Yes, I know, it's rather bare. There are artistic reconstructions of what the temple might have looked like, but like the images of Apollo, they're too specific for me: they don't leave room for my imagination to work. This one, on the other hand, has just enough structure for me to build a mental picture around it, all gleaming white marble and soaring grace, and I love how blue the sky is, and the sense of enormous, wide open space.

Ok, I know this post looks long, but it's also got a bunch of images. For me, this is actually short. Sad but true.

43 comments:

  1. That mountain is gorgeous.

    I'm a lot like you, where images help me get a feel for places. Places that inspired my writing were actually the first thing I started using Pintrest for.

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    1. I know, don't you want to go to Greece now? :) Pinterest sounds so awesome that I'm afraid to use it - I think I'll never come out of it!

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  2. Glad to hear your plotting is going well. Amazing images can really inspire writing. Love the Mt. Olympus in clouds.

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    1. And they're a nice break from words sometimes... :)

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  4. Your last sentence described how I felt when I visited the Getty in LA - gleaming white, soaring space, blue sky. I'm a sucker for images, so I loved this post!

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    1. Thanks, Jodi! Now I need to go to LA... ;)

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  5. Sometimes short is good. (Something I really need to work on before the A to Z Challenge begins.)
    I can never find images that fit my characters either.

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    1. Oh sheesh, tell me about it. If I don't learn how to be brief, I'll never get through the challenge...

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  6. It's good to get the feel of an area when you start a story. Still, getting the images that match your vision isn't always easy. :-)

    I do like the image of Mt Olympus shrouded in clouds and mist. Much better than the barren slopes. :-)

    Sia McKye Over Coffee

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    1. I know, me too - but sometimes the most helpful pictures aren't the most beautiful, at least for me. Sometimes. Sometimes I just want to gaze at a gorgeous photo and dream... :)

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  7. Ohhhh these are gorgeous. Have you wandered over to Pinterest yet? It's a nice for visual writers. You can make a board for each place & collect all the images that inspire you, plus find more!

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    1. I've been avoiding Pinterest for as long as humanly possible, because I think I'll get sucked in and never leave. But I'm running out of willpower...

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  8. I'm totally on the "visuals" bandwagon. I've started collecting them on Pinterest rather than documents in my story folder. Yeah, I should probably use pinterest to network, but I'm just using it to organize. Awesome tool. Love these images, btw.

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    1. Oh no, Pinterest is for networking, too? Oh boy. Once I join, I'll never come out. You're going to have to chase after me with a giant hook and pull me away.

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  9. I wish images did that for me. I don't gain any inspiration from them, and I'm not sure why!

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    1. We all gain inspiration from different things - sometimes images don't help me at all, and sometimes they're exactly what I need, and I never know why!

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  10. I sometimes find images to use as settings of my books. It really helps me.

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  11. Hi Liz! Yep I find settings more inspiring than anything. Especially nature. Whenever I find myself particularly riveted by a book, it usually has something to do with the setting created too.
    I'd love to visit Greece someday. So purty. :)Opa!

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    1. I know, tell me about it!! I wish I could go do research there, instead of here :)

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  12. I love doing image searches for anything story-related. It's a fun way to change up how I interact with the story, and it can be very inspiring!

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    1. That's a great way to put it - it DOES help change how I interact with the story, and anything that can shift your perspective is always so helpful!

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  13. Liz, you've given me some great ideas. I never look at images when writing but I should. Love these images, especially the first one.

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    1. I'm so glad! I love it when I can help in some way :)

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  14. I'm amazed at how different Mount Olympus looks in those two pictures. I really like the first one. It definitely looks like the home of the gods!

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    1. I know - I can't believe it's the same mountain! It's pretty amazing.

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  15. Lol. As a photographer, I tell my story through images rather then through words.

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    1. I know, reading this must make you laugh a little! I wonder if visual artists ever use words the way we use images?

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  16. What I love so much is that you were speaking about the Olympics in the first part of the piece and the place of the original Olympics in the second...and even though they mesh so well, they seemed separate.

    Also Liz, thank you SO much for your kind words about my How Do You Woo? piece. I was cringing as I pressed the "publish" button. It's hard putting your work out there to be judged.

    Leanne Ross ( readfaced.wordpress.com & LeanneRossRF )

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    1. Haha, you know, I only realized that I was writing about the Olympics AND Greece about halfway through :)

      You're so welcome! I totally understand the fear - it's so hard to put stuff out there like you did - but it was great, and great to read :)

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  17. Huge contrast between those first two photos; and I agree with you on artist renderings. I'd rather imagine for myself, filling in the gaps in my own way.

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  18. Amazing pics. I love searching for images. I'm glad your blog friends are helpful. :)

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    1. I know :) It's a lovely way to procrastinate!

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  19. Yeah, that photo of Olympus in the clouds is just amazing. Great to read you are doing so well with your plotting - hope that has continued and that you're enjoying the Olympics. :)

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  20. Gorgeous images! And I agree, it's always exciting to compile images on the setting of a story. I've got lots and lots of the Mediterranean, where my three historical romances are set (the characters move from Barcelona all the way to Istanbul).

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    1. ooo, lovely - I bet it's a nice escape from winter to look at those photos!

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  21. "Wreathed in clouds." I love the description of that image. Perfect.

    I'm a visual person. Visually stimulated, and often use pictures to write. As a matter of fact, I usually get a clear picture in my head when writing and write that scene in detail, then move on to the next scene.

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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    1. Thanks, Mike! That description of your process sounds a lot like mine, too :)

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