Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Drawings to build depth

I wanted to follow up on a thought I had in yesterday's posting. The use of drawings to help with your story. Not only to help with the background, world building aspect, but to actually help drive your story. One of the key locations in Crimson Swarm is an enemy fortress named Addlemort. Before I had my characters even catch a glimpse of Addlemort, I drew this:

Once again I probably put way too much time into the drawing, but it really helped me as I began work on the parts of the story that took place here. In the first scene, our hero had to sneak into the citadel undetected. Before I drew the picture, I had no idea how he would do it. Afterwards, I saw those cool flying buttress stairs on either side of the central tower, and I realized that if he could just somehow make it down the mountainside to the top of one of those walkways, he could make it in. Of course how do you sneak into a fortress across a bridge and down a flight of stairs out in the open? The solution I came up with was the majority of the soldiers were distracted. By what? A great plot element grew out of this question, and actually found itself intertwined tightly with where the bad guys drew their power.

The second scene involving Addlemort was when the our hero returned later with an army to attack the fortress. And again I was able to use the drawing to really drive the ebb and flow of the battle. To me it would have been nearly impossible to write the events that took place without having a strong visual like this drawing. I could look at it and run scenarios through my head before actually putting anything down on paper.

Of course you may say you don't have a fancy drawing program (in this case Adobe Illustrator), or you can't draw a straight line. As I said I think I put way too much time in this. There were other cases where I just did a very quick sketch to help orient me in a place. Here is a drawing of the council room where a big debate took place about whether or not to go to war:

Obviously only took a minute or two, but without this I would have had a very difficult time keeping track of everyone at the table.

I've even gone back and done drawings after the fact and then had to revise what I had written because it just didn't make sense once I drew it.

So get out those pencils (or mouses) and get drawing.

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