As some of you may know, Jenny and I are collaborating on a project, and we’ve been writing crazy volumes (for us) on the story itself, which followed fast on the heels of an insane amount of world-building emails that probably would amount to the volume of another entire book–and that world-building took place in about a six-week frame of time.
This entire process has been an absolute blast. Jenny’s been blogging about a lot of the discovery process we’ve gone through. We’re in discovery draft mode right now, and in one of the discussions on her first scene, the idea of how to build out the world visually came up.
We have a different approach to creating visuals, and different reasons why to do something (or not do it), and I want to emphasize here that there is no one right way.
Jenny swears she’s not visual, and I wouldn’t have believed her, because she creates the most phenomenal collages for her books, and she’s done one for ours. Trust me, the photos do not do them justice. I had a serious choked-up/tears-in-my-eyes feeling when I saw ours in person, because it really felt like our world, and captured the nature and the couples beautifully. Her first drafts, though, don’t have many scene descriptors, and mine have way too many. At some point, we’ll likely balance somewhere toward the middle because she’ll add some, just so her characters aren’t floating in space, and I’ll pare down to the essentials.
I’ve always been hyper visual–I remember everything in a room I’ve walked through long after I’m out of it; I’ll remember faces (not names), and places, but what I seem to zero on the most is mood/setting/details. Part of that stems from having painted for many years (oils)… or maybe the oils were the result of the hyper-visual bombardment I felt, the need to anchor the world. I started doing photography (that’s a link to my photo gallery) in high school the first time the year-book staff let me use a camera, and I picked it back up recently (which I blogged about here).
But getting that world built on the page without drowning the reader in non-essential detail… that gets tricky. It’s tricky for any book, really, because you want the reader to see the world, feel it, hear it, smell it, taste it, but you don’t want to ever ever ever stop the story with a dissertation on the room they’re in.
There’s more to the solution of this conundrum than simple brevity. Anyone can put one or two adjectives, or one sentence of a description, but it doesn’t necessarily build the world.
So how to do that, without dragging it down?