A Thousand Words: Pictures Help Bring Life to Stories

All stories come from the nugget of an idea. The idea itself can come in many forms: lying in your bed, watching television, reading a news story, talking with friends, a visit to some place that sets off an internal memory. As writers, we drive ourselves nuts trying to figure out what we’re going to write about.

I thought I would touch on where I find inspiration for my stories. Many of my stories are inspired by art and architecture. I attribute this to my father, who was a draftsman by trade and an artist at heart.  As a kid, I snuck into my father’s office in our basement to look at his work and books. He collected wonderful art books and I often thought he used these to gain inspiration for his own work, as I would do later on.

Case in point, ZAK CORBIN. The setting is a retro-futuristic 1950s and Zak lives in a place called New Futura City which gets its inspiration from the 1939 New York World’s Fair. A place you can’t really visit anymore, but the relics of that fair and its cousin, the 1964, can be looked at in pictures and in art:

Poster from 1939 New York World's Fair
Poster from 1939 New York World’s Fair

When I started looking for new ideas for writing inspiration, I turned to art websites. One in particular stands out: www.deviantart.com. This is a fabulous site devoted to all kinds of artwork: from digital to hand-drawn, videos and even stories. This is also the place where I found Daryl Toh’s work, whom I hired to do the cover art for ZAK CORBIN. Look at the cover for ZAK CORBIN and you’ll see the retro look and feel of the old 1939 fair in his work.

I found these images on Deviant art which inspired me to write VANQUISH (which the first book will soon be sporting a new title, check this space for the announcement!) (The artwork shown here doesn’t belong to me and is the sole property of the artists.)

When I found an image, I captioned it to capture the feeling of the story the picture was trying to tell.

Briley's first patrol
Briley’s first patrol

I was impressed with the action of this first picture and I was drawn to the biplane (very ornately detailed) blasting away at an enemy fighter against a 1930s skyline. This aircraft (which had no landing gear) became the Kestrel.

Sky City
Sky City

More 1930s sky action is shown here, featuring monoplanes of the era.

Briley in Cathedral
Briley in Cathedral

This is the first image which captured my main character and I decided to start calling her Briley Bannatyne. Although her outfit is very steampunkish, the mechanical nature of the setting and her attire suggested she was walking in a place that was very special. (and very important to the second book, 🙂 )

Warships and Aerial Scout
Warships and Aerial Scout

The Alt History/World War II nature of the story is represented here. There are no scenes with battleships like this one in the story, but the heavy dreadnaught and the intriguing aircraft caught my eye.

Sky City docks
Sky City docks

I pictured this location as a rainy, hard-scrabble place where airships and crews worked.

First Technical Church
First Technical Church

In the story, I imagined my main character Briley and her family as a member of a unique church dedicated to things logical and physical, merging these ideas with the spiritual and the social. The First Technical Church of Charles Babbage is a strange place, similar to places built by the Freemasons.

The Vanquish
The Vanquish

No action adventure would be complete without a cool airplane and this one caught my attention right away. The wings are much too sharply-angled and this aircraft doesn’t look so much as a fighter as racer, but the design conveys speed and aggression.

None of these pictures make up the story — that’s the harder part that comes later. But using pictures can help paint imagery in your mind that leads to stories.

 

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