|The visual inspiration for FOUNDATION STONES includes pictures of the Sahara Desert, Santorini, Greece, the stone forests of Madagascar, and the model Agbani Darego as she appeared in Stargist.com.|
Back in December Twitter was hit by a little game called #NovelAesthetic. I added mine for a back-burner novel FOUNDATION STONES because it was the one with the most visual appeal at that time. And putting the pictures together made me think about the steps that lead to writing.
Sitting down to write without a plan is a recipe for failure.
Whether or not a writer identifies as a Plotter or Panster there is some planning that needs to be done before any words are written. One of the best ways I've found to prep a story is to create a folder of visual references before I write.
I use OneNote, but feel free to use whatever program you're comfortable with. Some people like Pintrest, others prefer to go old school and print pictures to pin on the wall of their writing space. whatever works best for you, here's a quick guide to building a no-fail visual guide for your book.
1) Keep A Time Limit
It's easy to go down the rabbit hole with the project, so set a time limit and don't let yourself have more than a day or two (three to six hours total) to find pictures. Remember, this is a guide, not something written in stone.
2) Define Your Locations
For FOUNDATION STONES I have several known locations: the main port city, a mountain region, caves, a desert, a city in the desert, a secondary port city, a palace, and a mountain village. I refined my location search by colors and moods. The first port city has silver, white, and blue as its main colors. A quick google search turned up pictures of Santorini, Greece, where there are white walls, blue domes, and a view of the sea. Location search done!
3) Get A Map
If you are using a real world location don't forget to grab a screenshot of Google Maps while you're doing your research. Use street view to get a better idea of what the location is like, and work as much of that into your book as you can.
4) Hit The Travel Blogs
Not sure what your city should be like? Check out travel blogs, Tumblr, or Pintrest and look at photos from around the world. If you need something more exotic, check out art sites like Deviantart. Be sure to be respectful, tell the artists you liked their work, and don't use any art in a public place unless you have permission. The visual cues you collect are for you, not for your reader, but if you do share please don't steal. In other words, don't use that perfect photo of a model you found on Google as your cover art.
5) Use Your Cues Wisely
Visual cues are not the start of your cover art, you'll need to hit the stock photo sites for that (or find a very photogenic friend). The visual cues are there for when you get stuck writing. How do you describe the city? Well, look at your visuals and write what you see there. The setting sun turning the golden sand into fiery lava. Azure waves caressing alabaster walls. Cheerful red geraniums brightening the walkway... The pictures you gather are a way to procrastinate unless you use your time, and the images, correctly.
What do you do before you write?