One of the great difficulties of storytelling is to thoroughly visualise a place – and the movement of people within that place. Storytellers I work with can become stuck In a frozen moment, and the story doesn’t go anywhere.
Paradoxically, drawing, which in its finished state is static, can help to create the movement. But it is not the finished drawing that matters, it is the process of drawing.
Laura C is working on a memoir, built around her father’s cookery books.
Working with Laura yesterday, we started with an empty floor plan of the house she is writing about. Sketching together online, not least because we are on different continents, we gradually embellished the floor plan.
Over 30 minutes, Laura remembered all kinds of things that had happened in her childhood home and I sketched while we talked (Laura sketched a little too). I also wrote down a few of the phrases she used.
I highly recommend that you do this exercise. It works much better if you draw with someone else, because a lot of the benefit comes from your conversation.
I’m sure you can find someone, but if you can’t – well, you know where I am.
Cath said she’s no good at visual art. She wanted to use our collaboration to get clearer ideas about a scene in a book.
We used drawing to work out who was in the room, and what was in there with them – then to use the “props” to develop her narrative. Bear in mind that we started with a blank page. This is what we finished with.
You can watch our process, and maybe pick up some tips about how drawing can help your writing, in the video recording:
Our drawing/writing process
Afterwards, Cath sent this message:
Hi JP, great to see you (on Zoom) again. I really enjoyed it. What a fresh way to unblock writers block- by having fun!
We decorated one of the sketches I made while training in impro with Keith Johnstone. It was just a line drawing, with the three “lifebelts” listed on the top right.
Joel used his iPad today for the first time. And to raise the stakes a bit we recorded it live to Facebook. I have no idea what people watching might have made of the sight of us drawing – the picture itself never appeared on screen.
At one point, as I was drawing the splashes and the big wave, I lost Joel for a bit and had to talk to myself.