A Picture in my Head

When I started Percival’s story officially, from two fictional letters and a short story, I had a picture in my head.  I wanted my character to meet a dragon.  So that’s what I did.  The picture was of a man in a tan greatcoat blowing in the wind made from the massive wings of a purple and orange dragon.  The man was Percival, and the dragon was Gologer.  It seems considerably cooler in my head.

Writers, when they write, usually have a picture or an idea of what they want to write in their heads.  They’ll spend a lot of time thinking about this image, putting it together, making it more detailed, and basically thinking about it more than it should be thought about.  This picture will most likely become one of the most vivid parts of the story, will be the author’s favorite part more often than not, and will probably get stuck into the title.  For instance, Suzanne Collins very obviously had a picture of the Hunger Games arena and the Capitol when she was writing the Hunger Games.  These were the two most vivid parts in the book.  Sometimes it’s easy to see what an author has thought about a lot, sometimes it’s harder to see, but it’s almost always there.  In the Hunger Games, it’s quite obviously the Hunger Games.  In Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, I’d hazard a guess that the big picture was either the talk with Hades in the Underworld, or the confrontation with Ares in… where was it?  San Francisco?  In The Fire Within (by Chris D’Lacey), the picture was probably of David catching Zookie’s tear right at the end.  All are quite vivid.

Right now I’m still busy thinking up that story idea that I told you all about earlier in March.  I’m still working on the characters (it’s going well; I’ve got one named already!), but the big picture I have in my mind, the one scene that I will never cut, is the scene that will be the most vivid.  I’ve got this picture in my head that I’ll be forced to write.  For the Phil Phorce episode that I still haven’t let you catch up on, I’ve got the picture of… a certain scene in the future.  I can’t spoil it for you since it’s right near the end.

In spontaneous stories, you’d be hard-pressed to find any such picture.  In that chewing gum story, I had no idea what I wanted.  Same with the Unfortunate Existence.  Same with almost all my short stories.  *checks to make sure*  Nope, none of them had a picture or an idea to start them off, except Knitting Clubs and the Day Imagination Died.  The knitting one was for a “school assignment”, where they gave a picture and told me to write a short story from it.  Thus, the picture was not from my own imagination.  In the Imagination one, I had the idea of a grey world without imagination.  That was interesting as well.  But those other ones… those were all spontaneous, no pictures necessary.

I’ve begun to ramble, I think.  What I’m trying to say is that very vivid stories are most often the parts of detailed pictures and ideas in the mind of the author.  These are the ideas that are mulled over for months before the story is even started.  These are the ideas that are written mentally many times even before the featured characters have been introduced or thought up.  That picture is almost definitely a poster on the author’s mental bulletin board.

I have no idea if this makes any sense to any of you, but I felt it needed saying, just to get it out of my head.


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  1. That makes sense 😀 I have this mental picture of something that is going to happen to two characters in my book. I’ve thought it over a thousand times, but I just haven’t been able to bring myself to write it. I think that it probably looks way better in my head than it will on paper, unfortunately!

  2. Nicely put. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but you’re right. Though for me sometimes it’s a character that comes to mind. A certain character will show his/herself to me and I’ll work a little bit of a plot around them. They’re not always main characters, usually they are, and some go from being one to the other. And I almost always have one physical feature in mind. Or an odd character quirk.

    • Yes, I forgot to add that this also happens with characters. You think so much about one character, and then find that the rest are useless.
      I’ve tried building plots around characters, but it rarely works for me.

  3. It’s interesting, the thought of imagery driving the writing. I’d almost wonder if it comes a result of our exposure to film, where vivid imagery is everything. I find when I get one of those defining moments in my head, I see it very much as I would in a movie: intense detail, slow motion, every movement captured. The problem I have is by the time I’ve written myself to that scene, the blasted characters have all gone and done something different, and I can’t make them do the scene anymore!

    • I usually have a still picture in my head, normally pretty striking and spectacular. You’re right, though, about the frequent mental images coming from the films we watch. Interesting…

  4. I’ve trained myself to not have a picture in my head while I write.

    • Really? Why?

      • Well…it actually wasn’t intentional. Not completely, anyway. I used to have a picture in my head when I would write or draw—especially with drawing—but the finished effect would always look so completely and utterly different from that picture that was in my head. It wouldn’t have seen so bad if what I had on paper was better than what was in my head, but, of course, it wasn’t. So it was really frustrating, and so I sort of stopped looking at that picture in my head.

        It does take away from my writing—and especially from my drawings, though. Things are less vivid, and I know it affects my description, and… yeah. It’s like building a completely blank puzzle. Technically, I can cram those pieces together however I want to (and probably break half of the pieces, but, hey, it’s cardboard), but I’ll never know I did it wrong, because there’s no image.

        I just haven’t figured out how to undo it, yet.

      • That’s too bad.

      • Yeah…but I am working on it!

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