Recently, I participated in a social media tag challenge where I was to post one Black and White (B&W) photo each day for seven days. The rules were simple: no people, no explanation, and tag one other person each day. I don't usually participate in social media challenges, however this time, due to my love of photography, I dove right into my photo files. I loved this challenge. It allowed me to look at my images with fresh eyes, imagining how the play of light and shadow would affect the overall perception. Some images that I thought would be great examples lacked detail when converted to B&W. Others sparkled with vitality because of a gleam here or a ray of light there.
Sometime during the challenge I began to relate my photos with my writing. How the image is received depends on the amount of light, focus, and distance I chose. And so does a story to a reader.
I recently took a set of photos of a Northern Shrike. The bird was a perfect study and posed for several minutes, allowing me to take a variety of shots which I'll use to explain my reasoning, starting with the 'big picture', the first draft of a story where I set the stage for what the reader will encounter.
I don't think a reader is truly satisfied with a book written solely in this fashion. Our eyes roam over the image looking for the purpose of the shot. The small bird? The rocks? The frost-covered bush? The background? What is the story about?
If we focus on the background, we lose sight of details that may matter. Backstory is like that where it directs our attention to something that we may not need to know, especially in huge doses that blur the line between past and present.
Likewise, repeating pertinent parts of a character's life is like zooming in on the image so that it's smack-dab in front of a reader's face. Sometimes, necessary details are lost because it's harder to focus when it's too close.
The B&W photo challenge reminded me of story layering. An image without color can be stunning in its simplicity, yet to me, it lacks depth. It's missing the nuances that bring it to life.
The Northern Shrike isn't a bird that blazes color like a parrot, yet in the winter landscape, set against a blue sky, it can achieve a satisfying feast for our eyes.
A story is the same. Black words on white paper, yet if you describe the dull thudding sound of frost from dormant branches landing on the snow-covered ground, the smell of wood smoke, and the feel of a biting wind stinging the skin, you've added layers - colors - that bring your story alive. The more layers, the more depth.
Sometimes when I finish reading a sigh-worthy book, I can't give a defining reason, other than a happy ending, that made it so satisfying. I believe that when a story is layered with multi-faceted characters and visuals that fill my senses, I don't just read it...I live it.
What about you? What was the last sigh-worthy book you read and what made it so in your eyes?
Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are written under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yield fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience. Discover more at:Pinterest - www.pinterest.com/anitamaedraper/