I find writing to be very visual, from my point of view. As I’m writing the story, I see it play out like a made-for-TV movie. It helps me work through dialogue and setting the scene as if I was directing a stage play as the performance played out in my head.
I even place some of my favorite actors and actresses in these roles as the story progresses. It’s like having my own private movie theater inside my head, just no popcorn.
That being said, being a visual writer has its good sides and bad. While it helps me see the story, it also hinders me when I get stuck with writer’s block. The scene plays itself out over-and-over again. It reminds me of a scene from the movie Chaplin, where Charlie Chaplin is directing his first wife through a restaurant scene where she has to eat beans again and again through numerous takes. That’s what it feels like when I get writer’s block and it makes it hard to move on.
As writers, we have to set the scene, but in reality, we’re creating an entire world. When you write fiction, whether it’s fantasy, science fiction or another genre, you creating a world different from the one we live in. Sure, there are elements and places similar to the world we live in, but there are some unique aspects to the world created by the writer.
I think a great example of this is when you look at Marvel Comics and DC Comics. Marvel relies on the world we live in today as settings (New York in particular) with a few additional new countries like Latveria and Genosha. DC has created cities that don’t even exist, like Metropolis, Central City and Gotham City, and countries like Khandaq and Bialya.
World building is an essential part of writing. When I started writing Forever Avalon and The Dark Tides, I had to stop myself and actually draw a map of the magical island to ensure my bearings were correct when I was writing about the many different locations all around the island. I never knew that being an author also required navigation skills.
It’s quite daunting creating an entire island from scratch. You have to look at topography, placement of mountains, rivers and forests; and it all has to make sense. Add into that roads, cities, bridges and other assorted plots and you have your own little world.
I feel that I could make a religious anecdote about playing God but I don’t consider it godlike to do something like this. World building in a story is really using one’s imagination for putting together a puzzle. If the pieces don’t fit right, the puzzle is incomplete and makes no sense.