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Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Tuesday Tip - A Visual Narrative

If I'm ever stuck in my work in progress, or can't seem to generate enthusiasm to write, I go to Google and type in Narrative Painting as one of the keywords, and the period I'm interested in - in my case the 17th century. Trying it today, some of the first random images to come up were these:

The work above is by Vermeer, this one by the Flemish painter Frans Snyders.

By writing around the character I see - a draughtsman or maybe a geometer looking out of the window, his attention caught by ....? Well what? Let your imagination supply the answer. I am particularly taken with the oriental rug which pehaps came from one of the places he is mapping. Has it just arrived? Is that why it is draped in the foreground like that? Where will it go next?

The second picture - well, what a variety of fish. In a world where mostly I see cod and haddock, and the occasional tuna sandwich, this is an eye-opener. Most of it looks as though it is writhingly alive. And what is that in the bottom left? An otter? My market scene has just taken on fresh vigour!

Sometimes all the imagination needs is a little stimulus - a prod, if you like. Questions are what oil our creative faculties, as it is human nature to want to resolve questions. Google Images supplies you with all the questions about your period that you need. It is at our fingertips, and is such a rich resource, especially for those writing historical fiction. Most writers have a visual narrative running in their heads which needs feeding. If the imagination is hungry, then go and feed it!


  1. Deborah,
    What a wonderful idea; the thought had never occured to me to do such! You are so right about getting stuck, and needing that visual imagery. I keep looking at the same pictures over and over again about the people I am writing about, and it simply doesn't help much. I will now explore new images. Thank you :)

  2. What wonderful pictures just to hang around with whether you're stuck or not.

  3. Wow! Blogger is alive and well again.

    Your post struck home with me. I started my book by checking out large picture books about England. I was a 13th Century slate chapel that just had to be in my story, some village scenes and an ancient abbey. Everything took off from there, although I finally had to ditch the abbey. My second book has developed from a mental picture of a Dickens character. I've run off with that. :)

  4. Hello Lisa, Jarmara and Debbie, nice of you to stop by. The pictures are great aren't they? The weirder they are the more I seem to like them, and the more they pep up my interest.