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I always loved to draw, and I guess I still do, but my problem is that I can never get that image in my head to appear properly on the paper. It seems like it should be such an easy thing to do, but it's one of those genes that I just don't have, like caring about cars or understanding the appeal of reality television. Luckily, there are qualified artists out there willing to tolerate me long enough to illustrate my thoughts as best I can describe them.
That leads me to this point: I often find it hard to think like an artist. What's worse is that I'm sure that I think I can think like an artist, but I can't. Follow me on that one? While I have this image in my head that I can't draw, I have myself convinced that surely I can describe it using words, right? After all, that's what I do! I'm a writer! If only it were that easy.
Let's talk about the challenges of communicating with your artists. Read on for more.
Have you ever played the game where you look at a picture and have to describe it to someone else, who then draws it from your instructions? It's not as easy as it sounds. Here you are, looking at this simple stick-figure boat with a triangular sail, wavy lines for water, and a smiling sun in the upper corner, but trying to direct your vision of this simple picture to someone else requires more than just fancy literary footwork. There are all these details that the other person needs that you're not necessarily inclined to give. How big is the little half-moon that makes up the boat? What is the orientation of the triangle? How closely-spaced are the waves that make up the water, and what, exactly, is the position of the sun? Sure, you could tell them to draw a sailboat, but would it look like your picture? Not likely.
In writing my Complete Characters, I'm facing similar challenges. In my head, the character already exists, but my artist can't see the person that I've created in my mind. I describe a knight; everyone knows what a knight looks like, right? What type of armor is he wearing? How tall is he? What does the helmet look like? Is he even wearing a helmet, or is it off to better see the character's features? Hair color? Eye color? Skin color?
Even if those things are fairly obvious, a good artist needs to know more, so he or she can really put some life into the character. Is he a kind man, or cruel? Does he have a family? Is he a Lord or some hired soldier? Does he love the tournament, or live for real battle?
Could you draw a character if I were to answer all of the above? Even after answering all of these things, I find that the artist comes back to me with something that I clearly overlooked, but to the artist who is trying to form this imaginary person in his or her own mind for the first time, is an obvious omission. Does he have a beard? How old is he? What heraldic elements are emblazoned on his armor? It never fails that I miss something important, but a good artist never fails to call me on it. That's what they do! They're artists!
As I walk down that publishing road, I continue to be amazed at the sorts of new challenges that spring up. But, I guess that's half the fun.