Laura Haley-McNeil

12/3/17, Creating the Visual

Hello, Everyone!

I hope the start of the holiday season finds you well and doing things and being with people you love. I love this time of year because I see much more of my family. We have December birthdays to celebrate and though it adds to the chaos of the season, getting together is the highlight of all the holiday activities for me. I manage an office building in a high volume office park and so the building decorating and tenant event planning keeps me busy when I juggle that with the plans I make for my own family. Christmas is fun for me and I want to make it fun for everyone I know. Sometimes that it isn’t possible, but I have to try.

Christmas is a visual time of year. The colors, the sounds, the smells—everything is uniquely Christmas. Everyone has their own image of Christmas, whether you celebrate the holiday or not. The visual isn’t just important for Christmas; it’s important for everything and that includes writing. Lately, I’ve been working on the seventh book in the Crystal Creek series, as yet untitled, and I’ve been trying to visualize interactions between the characters. One of my favorite television shows had great interactions between the characters. Do you want to put that first look of love into words but might need a new or different way to express it? Here’s a hint: go to YouTube and type in the names of two characters whose interactions were memorable for you. Someone will have agreed with you and will have taken the time to edit the clips of these characters. Oftentimes, the video editor will set these clips to music, which can add to the emotion of the scenes. I could listen to Whitney Houston sing I Will Always Love You until I take my last breath. Her voice is so emotional, but if you prefer a different genre, there are plenty of artists these YouTube editors have used to express the emotions of their videos.

A few years ago, I was a huge fan of The Good Wife, which has been canceled, and I loved the interactions between the characters of Cary and Kalinda. I realize Kalinda is bisexual, but the scenes between these two characters depicted their attraction to each other brilliantly—the way they would look at each other, the way they would touch each other, even something so innocent as Cary’s hand accidently brushing across Kalinda’s. I love to see the surprise in her eyes that would turn to pleasure. I watch these videos and ask myself, “What am I seeing?” and “What am I feeling?” I hope what I see and feel is expressed in my words. Because I feel such a strong emotion, I want my reader to feel that also. Another visual I like is the attraction between Natasha and Anatole in War and Peace. He’s cocky and she’s conflicted. Their scenes are memorable!

I also use this technique when placing a character in a setting. If the character is entering a house, what is she seeing? What is the first image that strikes her? To get an image, I’ll type in the search bar some parameter of the house like double oak doors and click the IMAGE icon. The screen fills with photos of houses with double oak doors. If the doors are all closed, and I want them open, I type open double oak doors in the parameter. I continue to refine the request until the search shows the images I want. As I study the pictures, I’m asking myself the same questions, “What am I seeing?” and “What am I feeling?” I do that with other aspects of my writing. Once I wanted to visualize a man running away. I wanted to see the fear in his face. I wanted to see him looking over his shoulder. Again, I had to refine the image, but eventually, I saw the image that I wanted to express and wrote what I was seeing.

Do you have tricks you use to help you convey your characters and plot? If so, please share. It’s always interesting to know what everyone creates and their methods for doing so. There’s no right or wrong way. Our goal is the same—to entertain the reader.

And as you begin your holiday planning and celebrating, I wish you peace, love and joy that will carry you through the entire season.