How to Use Sketching to Visualise Aspects of Your Novel
When we write, we are painting a picture with our words. However, our writing can only be as clear as the images we hold in our heads. If we don’t visualise our creations clearly, our writing will become vague and muddled.
I’ve recently been experimenting with creative journaling, tapping into images, colours and emotions instead of only words. If you are writing speculative fiction, like me, then some of your creative visions may be more complicated than most. After all, you’re inventing worlds, creatures and creations unfamiliar to the reader. In my novel, the skies are dominated by airships. Part of the novel is set on one airship in particular, and my creative writing group expressed their want for a clearer picture of this unusual setting.
I used this method to help me visualise my airship, but you could use it for a variety of different aspects of your novel. For example, you could use this method to help visualise:
- Or a combination of the above
So I set to work in my creative journal. Here’s the outcome:
(forgive my spelling!)
- Collect and study images that embody the aspect of your novel you want to depict.
- Take a large piece of paper and using some watercolour paints cover it in colours that express your creative vision – this helps warm up your creativity and tap into the mood of your creative vision. Alternatively, use a piece of coloured paper – it’s less daunting than the dreaded blank page.
- Once the paint has dried, use a pencil to roughly sketch your vision, using your photographs and images to inspire you. Be nice and big. Don’t worry about being neat. Don’t rub out – this interferes with your creative flow. Just sketch lightly, and re-sketch over the top if you want to make any adjustments.
- Take a pen and go over the ‘correct’ bits of your pencil drawing.
- If you want, fill in the outline with more colour – using paints, pastels, felt-pens… anything that inspires you. (I’m very much a sketcher, so I left mine the way it was.) You might want to add splashes of colour.
- If your drawing is quite complicated and has a lot of function to it (like my airship) you can label all the bits to make it nice a clear in your head. If you’re sketching a character, label their distinguishing physical features and connect them to an emotional feature or a past event (e.g. Scar – where my character fainted at the sight of a huge spider and hit her head on the kitchen table).
- Refer to your image if and when you need it, or go back to it and update it as your vision grows and develops.
Do you use sketching as a research device for your writing? Share your methods and thoughts here.
If you use this method, please feel free to share the results in the comments. I’d love to see your work!