Today on my blog wanderings, I visited Claudia's blog and found this quote:
A writer should write with his eyes and a painter paint with his ears.
Now, I'm not so sure about the painting part, but the first part really got me thinking today.
Not only is that part true, but it's a vital part to our writing.
So how does one write with our eyes?
It's a two step process.
The first step involves paying attention to our surroundings. Wherever we go, there are objects that surround us, people that move about in our awareness, things that happen. That's the first part of our learning experience. Noticing how people move. Noting how they air their emotions. The big movements, the slow movements.
Then of course (and this is just as important) we notice people interacting with their surroundings. Some keep their heads down on rough ground, because they don't want to injure themselves. Others are so secure in their ablity to navigate the dips and bumps that they go about with their heads up, walking about as if they own the place. Have you noticed how people act when they walk into a crowded restaurant? Some never walk in alone. Those who do tend to avoid eye-contact with the masses and dodge their way to a table and find something with which to keep themselves busy. Books are dug out almost before the menu is opened. I-pods are switched on as soon as the order is placed.
People's interactions with their surroundings can, if we pay attention, tell us a lot about the people.
The second step to writing with our eyes involves applying what we saw on the pages of our writing. Does the bolt for the nearest table and attempt to vanish in the masses or does he walk in as if he owns the place? Those actions can be especially important when the writing isn't dealing with a VP character. They give the reader impressions to work with to build a picture of the character's personality.
Writing with our eyes also serves another important purpose (that I know I forget sometimes): Grounding the scenes. I've read more than a few stories where there's wonderful conflicts and brilliant tension. The characters are interesting. The plot has me intrigued. But there's a big problem.
The action is taking place in a white haze of nothingness. I can't work out where they are. Or if I am told, I have no clue as to how it looks.
BUT this is not a problem solved by pages on pages of description. It's solved by smart interactions by the characters.
For example, if something happens outside, we shouldn't be describing the weather. Our characters should be stamping their feet. Their breaths should be coming up in white puffs floating up to the clear moon...
And so on.
It places characters firmly in relatable surroundings without giving readers the feeling that it's a stage set.
Do you write with your eyes? What does the phrase mean to you? How do you do it?