|Armand Guillaumin, Sunset at Ivry (Soleil couchant à Ivry), 1873, Musée d'Orsay|
You do not need to be proficient in the other art forms in order to be a great writer, but studying the masters in Music, Landscape and Portrait Painting, and the Camera Lens--can bring the fictional world of your novel or memoir to life.
- Music helps convey the exact emotion you might need in your characters.
- Think of movies, how music sets the tone. With each book I write I listen to compositions that best exemplify the tone and setting for my story. For my British Raj trilogy it was a blast listening to exotic Indian music. For my novels set in Ireland I listened to Irish melodies.
Below is a short excerpt from Londonderry Dreaming, a contemporary romance that features Keith Wilson, a music therapist:
“Naomi slid her hand in at the back of the drum to grasp the crossbars under the goatskin of the bodhrán, a traditional Irish drum. Experimentally at first she moved the short wooden tipper like a pencil, tapping, growing more confident with each beat. Her eyes met Keith's as she adjusted the pitch so that the beat was like that of a heart. What was she saying? He tilted his head to listen. Like in his clients, he recognized the subconscious expression of inexpressible thoughts through rhythm.”
- Portraiture: Looking at a face in another artistic form can help you find the phrasing you are looking for to convey your characters’ emotion.
- You may not be able to draw someone’s portrait, but you can study the masters. Take a look at Da Vinci or Michelangelo, Renaissance painters for just a few to study the face, the angle of the head, the way the mouth is held, an eye squint, etc., and how it all portrays emotion.
- Or take a brief look at modern painters and the use of psychedelic colors to get a deeper grasp on an elusive emotion.
A strong visual helped me write the following description from Shadowed in Silk.
“Geoff walked over the greet the old man. A bronze face framed by gray whiskers, topped by the wide, loose turban of a Baluchi chief looked down at him. Above a hawkish nose, brown and bloodshot eyes outlined in kohl expressed concern, and the old man spoke in Urdu. 'A strange place for your air machine to land.' He ordered his camel to bend at the knees and stepped from it. “I am Chakar Khan.”
- Landscapes, to convey emotion in a scene: Use another artist's talent to show colors that are only there for a fraction of a moment, or even color that isn’t there in the real world, but convey the emotion you want.
- A landscape (or a portrait) becomes more evocative when shadow is contrasted with light? I love Pinterest, but even just googling Landscapes can help you find the right tone to help your reader feel they are in your fictional world.
Here is one of my favorite descriptions from Captured by Moonlight, although I have to confess this is from my own impressions while riding a train in India.
“The pony-pulled jutka rattled along the countryside of the Madras Presidency. Rust-red dirt flew up at Laine. On one side of the rutted track a rice paddy stretched out, a verdant green that almost hurt the eyes in the sunlight. Dotting the paddy, women’s saris—saffron, crimson, vermillion, peacock blue—shimmered in the light like beads on a bangle.”
- Camera View: See your story or scene through a different field of vision. Field of Vision is how the observable world is seen at a particular moment…a split second in time. How does your scene change if your field of vision is cropped, so that non-essentials to your story are eliminated?
- What happens to your scene if you change your mental lens to black and white, or sepia, add sunbeams or starlight? I love playing with my photos on programs such as Picmonkey to get different effects.
A Different Color Changed my Whole Book:
I was more than halfway through writing Veiled at Midnight and sent a photo of a model to my publisher Roseanna White that I thought conveyed the strength and beauty of my character Dassah. Originally I wanted Roseanna to change the color of the dress to green which epitomized an integral part of my storyline. Rosanna did as I asked, but when I saw the dress in green, it didn’t work for me on an emotional level.
I asked Rosanna to change the dress photo back again to crimson, and I re-worked the story of Dassah’s bridal sari to red. This actually turned out so much better because I was reminded that a bridal gown in Asia is red for the color of joy.