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Dark fiction author Charlotte Boyett-Compo shows us how to make descriptions come alive.

Visualization: the Art of Seeing the Story
Charlotte Boyett-Compo

One of my favorite writers is Noel Hynd. When I began reading his novels, he wrote wonderful spy thrillers. Now, he writes ghost stories. His latest work, Rage of Spirits, is perhaps his best so far. In it, he tells the tale of a murdered girl who had wanted nothing more in life than to be a writer and have her stories read. Told through the eyes of this vengeful spirit, you encounter visualizations and images which are so astonishingly vivid, you would have to be totally blank not to 'see' what Hynd has created.

It is in the art of visualization that you must set both your locale and your mood. There is more to telling a story than just telling the story. Would Poe's works have been nearly as striking if he had not used dark descriptions and sinister atmosphere to tell the tale? (If you have not realized that Edgar Allen Poe's works are part of the romance genre, you have missed their messages completely. Case in point: "Annabelle Lee".) Dark moods and somber settings control what you think as you are reading. Conversely, a bright sunny day with birds twittering in the trees, the wind gently skirling through the branches, and the smell of clover in the air will put you into a happier frame of mind.

By controlling what your readers are experiencing with the sights you are describing, you can set the mood and the tone of the story without ever having to write the first bit of dialogue or give any explanation whatsoever. By allowing them to 'see' where the characters are, what they look like, you can even express emotions.

That is visualization and the best example of visualization is dreaming.

Daydreaming, we can control; night dreaming--full of all those hidden messages our subconscious refuses to deal with during the day--isn't so easy to manipulate. There are very few of us who have not daydreamed about winning the lottery or gaining something our heart has long desired. Whether it is money or fame, material possessions or the love of a special someone, we have sat and--with that unique expression reserved for daydreamers--pondered the what ifs. Most of us are the stars of our own little melodramas and what we wish for is usually well beyond our grasp or ability to achieve; but to the writer, what we desire can be ours with only a pen stroke or a key punch. If you can see it in your mind, it is yours forever.

To paraphrase a popular self-help maxim: What the writer can conceive, the reader can perceive!

Close your eyes. Picture a white sand beach at sunset with copper-shot waves crashing gently to shore. Smell the kelp and the brine in the air. Hear the seagulls shrieking overhead. Feel the warm sand beneath your bare feet as you walk. Experience the wind blowing your hair back from your face. Take a deep breath; let it out and with the expulsion of air, broadcast all your cares to the sea where they will sink beneath the waves, never to trouble you again.

You are calm and content with the world as you traverse this stretch of barren beach.

Is that the sound of hoof beats pounding in the surf?

Open your eyes!

Do you see the black stallion cantering toward you? Can you picture the rider: white shirt billowing in the sea breeze, long legs clamped masterfully over the stallion's ribcage? Is he smiling? Is he happy to see you or is he angry, his mood as lowering as the sun sinking upon the horizon?

What are you wearing? A long gown whose folds snap around your bare legs? If you lift the skirt, can you run, digging your feet into the shifting sands being pulled out from underneath you by the waves?

How strong is the arm which reaches down to pluck you from the beach and haul you--protesting or not?--onto the back of that mighty steed? Is that arm sun-bronzed and matted with crisp dark hair? Does the coolness of the white silk shirt smell of bay rum or lime? How taut are the thighs which control the stallion's gait? I there a high sheen on his black leather boots or are they dusty from his ride?

Sigh deeply and relax into those strong, warrior's arms. Put your faith and fate into his callused sword hand. Settle back against that wide, brawny chest and let your own long hair mingle with his as the wind whips past you.

Was that a knowing male giggle you just heard as his arms tightened around you? Was it low and seductive or playful and boyish. How did it make you feel? Womanly and protected or blissfully secure in your own sensuality? Can you guess what he is thinking? Do you really want to know? Or are you content to daydream of what is to come?

You shiver and he leans down to nuzzle your cheek with his. Did you feel the stubble? Were his lips soft as they plied a teasing nibble at that tender place where neck and shoulder meet?

There was no dialogue. No lengthy explanation of why she was on the beach; who he is and from whence he came. But nevertheless, you should have been able to see the entire scene in your mind and come away with a sense of great impending love and glorious adventure just waiting to happen.

What a writer's mind can achieve, the reader will believe!

There is no limit to the imagination. Being able to share that imagination is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. To be able to express in words what we see and hear and feel and smell and taste in a way that others can also see and hear and feel and smell and taste, is the gift we give to our readers.

One word of caution though: Never settle for the first visualization you have when you are putting together a scene. Work on that visualization. Pretend you are seeing it from every possible angle--just as a cameraman will shoot a scene for a movie from many different angles. Look upon the setting and the mood as the hero sees it, then turn your eyes to the heroine. No two people see a rose in exactly the same way. But if you can describe that rose so completely, so thoroughly, from every nuance of the scent to the perfection of each petal, the reader will be able to see that rose through your eyes.

And that is what visualization is all about: telling the story through the writer's eyes instead of his or her words.

. . . . . . .

Charlotte "Charlee" Boyett-Compo is the author of over thirty books, the first nine of which are the WindLegend Saga which began with THE WINDKEEPER. She was the first author to be published by Twilight Times Books, now Dark Star Publications. Recently, Charlee won Inscription Magazine's 2000 Engraver Award for Favorite E-Author and The Writecharm's Simply Charming Award for promoting e-books and their authors worldwide. Her sci-fi/futuristic novel, BloodWind, stayed on Dark Star Publications bestseller list for over 18 months and has now been released in paperback. It was named as one of the Best Books of 1999 at eBook Connections as was her dark historical, In the Wind's Eye. Her psychological thriller, In the Heart of the Wind, was recently nominated for a 2000 R.I.O Award and has been named as one of the Best Books of 2000 at Inscriptions and was awarded a Reviewer's Choice Award at Scribe's World.


For more information about Charlee and where you can purchase her books, visit her website
Read a dowse interview with Charlee

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