Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sketching the Story

When doing a picture, of really any kind, one of the first steps is to plan it. Generally, you draw a few small sketches, placing the subjects in relation to one another, setting the composition, and making general "notes." These notes are rarely written (though they can be); I mean to say that you are collecting and polishing the ideas involved and the sketched elements are your "notes" for the work.

This is beyond the conceptualization stage, in which you first think of what you want to draw, and many artists skip it altogether, going right into the actual piece, however some works require this middle step. Comic books are an example: the entire page must first be sketched in order to nail the sequence. These small sketches are called "thumbnails."

At various times, I have discussed applying the methods used in drawing and visual arts to writing and vise-versa, but it was while reading Jack Heffron's The Writer's Idea Book yesterday that the concept really began cementing itself.

I've had the book for years, but never read much of it, and I just picked it up yesterday to flip through and kill some time. Heffron prefaces each chapter with a bit of advice and instruction, then presents a collection of writing prompts meant to inspire you toward getting the idea being discussed. For example, the chapter discussing travel and settings then prompts you to recall places to which you've traveled, events which occurred at places you've visited, and so forth.

The process struck me as exactly the same as "thumbnailing," and I want to explore it more deeply in the future. I believe this is a great way to flesh-out entire sections of larger works, and even the works themselves. I've discussed "writing through" before (literally making a note or writing a single sentence where an entire passage, section, or even chapter needs to be and coming back to it when you know more about what you wish to say there), but this is somewhat different. In effect, we are going to discuss a process by which you can use writing prompts to better develop your ideas and collect your thoughts on a piece before collecting your information and actually writing the piece.

I will be presenting prompts from The Writer's Idea Book and also discussing the methodology presented, but it is more of a toolkit/workbook approach. We are going to try and develop an actual system for "sketching" scenes and ideas and then writing them in full.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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