Sandra Jones · writing advice

Painting the Landscape


As a former art teacher, when I’m writing a novel, I’m often reminded of painting an artwork. You begin with a blank page as you would a canvas. You have an idea where you’re going and some things you’re going to need to include to get to the end product. But first you’ve got to know what to drag into the canvas and what to leave out.

You need different values to make it interesting. These are the light colors and the dark. Moments of levity and happiness, as well as conflicts or strife.

You can’t just put the whole end product on the canvas at once. That would look childish, a sign of a newbie. You have to choose which pieces (words, phrases, events) convey the message best and add them a bit at a time. To help my hero/heroine make their character arcs, I paint little dabs of change throughout the manuscript, until the end result is a complete journey or finished painting. For example, the heroine in my current work had a grudge against her childhood home, so she balked at returning there with the hero when he asked. Conflicts forced her to embark on that journey. Then dab by dab, I painted little hints into the picture to help her realize that she’d forgotten how much she’d really loved her childhood home.

It’s these little pieces that put you in the character’s shoes and let you enjoy the journey along with them. Then when you stand back to admire your finished work, it’s like finishing a good book with a satisfied sigh.


One thought on “Painting the Landscape

  1. How very insightful. If readers could see the entire picture at once, there would be no interest or delight in turning the page. I love the thought of standing back at the end of a book and being able to “see” everything come together.

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