This picture is actually a daytime shot taken on my phone. I played around with the tone to give it a nighttime look. One of the perks of writing, for me, is doing things I might never have otherwise done. Like everybody else, I have a busy life. Hobbies are almost luxuries, so maybe the idea of taking pictures was a little appealing even before it became a research issue, but who has the time to add in yet another scheduling challenge? However… for some reason (I suppose I could analyze said reason and figure it out) one of my protagonists must be artistic in some way. In Backbone, it was photography, but day time photography. Then I had a painter – I paint, too — when I have the time. Oils. Love it. Now I’m back to photography, but now it’s night photography. I get to take pictures because… I need to do my research!
Research is a part of writing, and I love it. A lot of it can be done on line now or through traditional study methods. I have books on photography, but there’s no substitute for holding that camera in your hands, feeling the weight, the smoothness, pushing buttons, moving dials, adjusting the lens. I love the feel of all the parts, the heft of other lens, the sharp angles of the flash, the awkward legs of the tripod. I need to know what my character feels when he raises that camera or attaches it to his tripod and fixes his eye on an object or scene.
As much as I would hate to live in a big city, I love urban photography. Think of the abandoned buildings of Detroit. Have you ever heard of Keelung in Taiwan? It’s an abandoned city being slowly swallowed by nature. The photos are absolutely stunning. Check it out. Then there’s Hashima City. You might know that one from the James Bond movie. I don’t know how it is that the lives of the people who lived in a place can permeate it so deeply, so richly, so long after they are gone. The photos from those cities bewitch me.
In my city, which is really a suburb, I look for things that fit my sense of “urban”. My neighbors have a thing in their side yard. By thing I mean, (possibly) a trailer? Some sort of flatbed contraption. Most probably it’s a freaking eyesore in the middle of the day but at night…? It’s a mysterious, strange, alien wonder. There’s a street lamp right above it and an amazing aloe vera plant behind it. With the light shining down, the shadows under the flatbed are impenetrable. That’s the picture I want… as soon as I can figure out how my camera works at night. I think my shutter speed was good, but the aperture not so good. I took a couple of shots, they didn’t come out. No worries, I told myself, I’d try again the next night. But no… My neighbors parked a car right in front of it!! Damn them. Now they’ll probably get rid of it or something.
Anyway, I digress – a little. Research, especially of actionable things, can create newness and depth in your life. Take you in directions you wouldn’t necessarily otherwise go, because carving out the time can be so daunting, but for your work…? That’s different. This is the time you get to play at all the other things you could have done, try out the paths you didn’t follow. And if you don’t write – do it anyway. What interests you? What will take your imagination to new places? What will stretch you so that you’re a different person than before? What adds to you like brush strokes on canvas or musical notes to a score or photos in an album?
So far, there’s no artistic quality in either of the characters in the book I’m currently brainstorming. I’m sure there will be. Maybe I’ll learn to play the harp or the flute. Or the drums!! I never focus on the art as a topic. In other words, it’s not a theme or a plot line or anything like that. It’s a trait or a quality. A form of expression that my guys can’t live without. They are me, from me, from the writing that is integral to me. This artistic interest rounds out the characters. It rounds out me. Sewing. Carving. Glass blowing! Sculpture – metal, junk, stone.
The photography, though, is here to stay in my life. Pictures without words. How many stories are out there hiding, waiting for my lens to find them?
What makes you bigger than you, different than you? Who is the secret you that a new art form will reveal?
Talk about it. Leave a comment if you’d like to share.
But above all try out at least a few of the people you imagine inside you. Life is short. Soar!