Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Visual clues -- or, reverse-engineering from art to plot

As an illustrator who's also a bit of a storyteller myself, I'm always fascinated by the way different people see different images. Almost no two people see the same picture the same way.

Have a look at this series of images ... what do you see? Is he a warrior mediating on the eve before battle? Is he a prisoner in this fortress? Is that a look of longing or of pain on his face? Has be been horribly abused and is dreading his captor's return? Is he longing for a lover who's been away too long? Or is that a splitting headache, because this is the morning after?!

It looks like a fantasy, but -- who says?This could be a resort in Romania catering to people who like a bit of the exotic. Bu notice the other features in the shots...

The candle. The moon in the window. The large area of empty space at the top of the shot.

The empty space serves to make the figure look overwhelmed, or lonely, or abandoned, maybe lost. The candle could indicate a time in the past, pre-electric ... a time in the future after the fall of technology. Then, what about the moon? The significance of this to a lot of people is -- werewolf, shapeshifter. But try this:

It's hundreds of years in our future, after something massive crashed civilization on Earth, and only Luna survived as a technological society. The hunk on the fur rug is a pilot whose ship crash landed not far from this fortress. He's been injured ... he can't remember who he is or where he's from. Trying gives him a headache. He suspects he's more a captive that a guest here, and he doesn't trust the people who brought him here, even though they pulled him out of the wreck and saved his life. Looking at the moon makes him halfway remember. The question is, can he get out of here? And if he can, where would he go?

Bet your bottom dollar his memory comes back in time -- but not before there's been a sizzling romance with a local who helps him get away. The transmitter on the wreck can be salvaged, he can fix it and call for help, but the locals are launching a witch hunt, he's in deadly peril, running for his life and watching the skies. The local who helped him (a girl if it's a straight story, a guy if it's a gay story -- you choose!) is close to death, wounded, when the ship drops in from Luna and whisks them out of there, but will s/he live or die? Our hero might be rescued and bereaved in the same ten minutes.

And there's a dozen more stories that could spin off the visual clues in a couple of simple images. Isn't it amazing, what your imagination can do? Someone needs to discover an alien machine that takes ideas and turns them into novels without a writer having to slog through the next month at a keyboard. Like a lot of people, I get ideas ... like a lot of people, I don't have the time to write, which is why I like artwork so much, because you can tell a story in a few moments.

Jade, 25 January
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