See It, Think It

I am a visual girl. Meaning, I am drawn to pictures and often inspired by things I see. I’ve been told that my writing has a very cinematic style of imagery, and that’s probably because in my own head, I’m watching all my stories on the big screen.

Insuring Your Idea

It’s now November, which means that as you read this post, I’m pounding away at the keys, cranking out my next novel (#NaNoWriMo). Fortunately, I didn’t enter National Novel Writing Month blindly or unprepared. I spent the last several months prewriting my novel before I ever started Chapter One. If you’re new to prewriting (heaven forbid, get thee to an outline pronto!), it’s the process of planning and preparation that gives your novel a skeleton before you form flesh and breathe life into it. It includes character descriptions, story questions, plot arcs, synopses, and all the nitty-gritty stuff that ensures you have a functioning novel before you dedicate hours (days, weeks, months) of your life writing the thing. A prewritten package for a story is like insurance against writer’s block. It helps keep that spark of an idea tries to fizzle out, you have somewhere to turn.

Chiseling Out Characters

Back in October when I was working on character descriptions, I got a bit stumped. I needed some inspiration, and wasn’t in the mood to steal personalities from any of my friends or family. (Which, by the way, is a viable place to find them, in case you’re looking – just don’t name the character after that person without consenting the real one first. Consider this your friendly reminder not to tick off your loved ones.) Then a thought hit me. I remembered that the Bonus Features* of my previous novels included head shots of individuals who look like the characters. So I jumped onto the Internet and started surfing for look-alikes. At that point in the game, my vision of my characters was still hazy enough that searching through actor and model images actually helped define what they looked like. And since so much starts on the visual level for me, studying that photo of my main character helped me flesh out the details of his personality.

On Location

I also did a good amount of searching for images once I knew the primary location of the story was Chicago (with a few scenes in Kansas City as well). Gateway to Reality (working title) revolves around several major sculptures in the two cities, so part of my research was collecting photos that will come in handy when I’m describing those scenes. Also, I find that just looking at pictures of neat places sometimes brings stories to mind.

If I needed a new project right now (which I don’t), browsing images of cool landscapes or other interesting places would be a great way to start. So far I’ve just done the image search on Google, but I have a feeling Pinterest would be another great place to look. I better not think about that too much, though, because I can’t afford to waste any time right now.

Have you ever been inspired by a photo or other visual means? What came out of it – a character, a scene, an entire novel? Where do you go online to find inspiring pictures?


*While my novels may not be in DVD form yet, they do come with special perks for my valuable beta readers.

You might also be interested in:

Unlocking the Mysteries of Your Characters

Creative Challenge: People Watching

Discovering Character Motivation via The Five Love Languages

3 thoughts on “See It, Think It

  • Love this post, Becca. I have a whole file of clipped pages from magazines and art books. They include evocative images and character studies. Sometimes I just like to go through it to see what it makes me think of…like seeing old friends.

    Vogue Magazine has great images and old photography books. Thanks for sharing this!


    • Thanks for your comment, Anna. I, also, have a file of images I’ve torn out of magazines or wherever else. I enjoy discovering where the mind can travel when I give it just a little something inspiring to chew on. 🙂

  • I have what my art teacher called a morgue and I started over 65 years ago to save images of things I might want to draw some day. It has been useful.
    I also have a collection of any paintings by famous artists that I find in magazines, etc.

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