Visual Aids - The Roles of Images in Fiction


Visual Aids - The Roles of Images in Fiction

It sometimes seems sad to me how eagerly artists put themselves in boxes with regard to their chosen medium. "I'm a painter," one will say, and laugh if you try to talk to them about sculpture; "I'm a writer," say the writers, and they won't entertain the possibility of adding a drawing or two. Maybe it's because we're so nervous about doing a good job that we are afraid to branch out into more unfamiliar territory. But the fact remains that visual aids can work tremendously in some modern fiction, particularly as graphic novels and comics become more mainstream and more literary. Artist/writers like Art Speigelman should remind us that excellent writing can be greatly enhanced and can challenged when mixed with striking, moving images.

Try adding some visual flavor to your writing.

It's time to break out the charcoal or the pen and ink and try stretching our abilities a little. Just because we discover our natural talents at a certain age doesn't mean from then on we should keep steadily shrinking our horizons. Whenever you're writing a new story, try sketching an important view in the story, or your main character's face. Draw an important object in the story, such as the main character's watch or a brooch that belonged to the character's mother. Use what you learned in art class about shading, depth, foreshortening, perspective. You may be surprised what you can accomplish in your first effort.

Think about what art adds to writing.

There are some things that only images can do. It can take a paragraph to capture the look exchanged between characters in writing that can take just a moment with an arresting image. At the same time, images can't probe as deeply into the heart of a matter or capture the passage of time or conflict quite as easily. If you can weave these two things together, your story might bec ome something truly original.

Read up on the classics.

Want to research how it's done? Some personal favorites are Osamu Tezuka's Buddha and Phoenix series, Art Speigelman's Maus, and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. There are many other great stories out there that are written by artists brave enough to cross the divide between art and fiction.