I have a theory.  I think that many people who write also have some other artistic talent.  I was once part of a writing message board and a number of people wrote about how they sketched their main characters or drew pictures from scenes in their book.  Some of them painted.  If you’ve been to J.K. Rowling’s webpage and found some of the hidden content (Yes, I’m that big of a Potter-dork), you know that she has sketches of some of her characters, too.

I wish that was me.

It isn’t.  Not even a little bit.  If I ever need to be an eyewitness to a crime I’m in biiiig trouble because I have absolutely no visual memory.  This little visualization handicap makes writing description really challenging.  Consider this description of Bella, from the TWILIGHT series, as written by Stephanie Meyers on her website under “What does Bella look like?”:

In my head, Bella is very fair-skinned, with long, straight, dark brown hair and chocolate brown eyes. Her face is heart-shaped—a wide forehead with a widow’s peak, large, wide-spaced eyes, prominent cheekbones, and then a thin nose and a narrow jaw with a pointed chin. Her lips are a little out of proportion, a bit too full for her jaw line. Her eyebrows are darker than her hair and more straight than they are arched. She’s five foot four inches tall, slender but not at all muscular, and weighs about 115 pounds. She has stubby fingernails because she has a nervous habit of biting them.

There is absolutely no way I can visualize this type of detail without a picture.  So, if I’m trying to write description, I surf the internet for an image.  Google Images is my best writing pal in the whole wide world.  It’s been my visual crutch.  I use it for every type of description: characters, settings, objects…you name it.  I have some other crutches, too.  In action scenes, I won’t figure out the blocking until I physically get up and act it out (Sometimes I make family members help me and, every once in a while, the family pets).  A couple of times I’ve looked up online videos to remind myself of how certain animals move.  Like, if I say someone moves like a leopard, I always check the video of a leopard to be certain I’m making a fair comparison.  I have to use these tricks or my books would lack the visual element that is so necessary in a well-rounded manuscript.

However, what I lack in the visual, I make up for in the auditory.  And I’m really grateful to have this going for me.  My manuscripts are very aural.  I can hear character voices very clearly–both the quality of their voice and the vernacular they would use.  Sound is almost always the first thing I introduce when I describe a setting.  Of course I rearrange things in edits, but that’s the sense I use to connect with the worlds I create.

It shouldn’t be a shock for me–I’ve always been musical.  I remember voices before I remember faces.  And when I write, I often get into the mood by listening to a little music.  When I acknowledged that my mind’s ear was much stronger than my mind’s eye, it changed the way I wrote.  I realized I had a strong tool that I wasn’t using.

How about you?  What’s your strongest sense?  How do you use it in your writing?  Do you use another creative outlet, like painting or music, when you’re working on a writing project?

Stunning image by djcodrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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