Are you a writer? Then you should be drawing. Don't have art skill? Don't worry, neither do I. More to the point, no one else ever has to see what you sketch. So why bother? Because it helps. It helps with mental blocks, it helps visualize things from the characters' point of view, and it helps with consistency.
|You can draw for fanfiction too.|
Ever been stuck on where your protagonists can meet? Sketch the town, look for options. Ever wondered which of your secondary characters is the tallest? (Without her heels?) Sketch the group side by side. Ever had the villain's eye colour change between chapters? Unintentionally? Oops. Sketch. And colour, and keep it nearby.
If the only reason you have for not drawing is that "I can't draw", that's NOT a valid reason. In desperation, there's online programs that can help you to do it, no pencil required. Let me now debunk some other popular excuses:
1) I SEE IT IN MY HEAD
It's more likely that you see bits and pieces of it in your head. Your heroine likes the colour blue, and is more inclined to wear dresses instead of jeans. But with stockings, or without? (A run in one's nylons could become a plot point.) Would she look good in a hat, or with large earrings? (Maybe someone's shopping for a gift.) How tall is she compared to the male lead? (Going up on tiptoes for a kiss?) How well endowed are we talking? (Perhaps she's insecure - or makes others insecure.)
|Wait, what else is in this room?|
I think the only legitimate reason for keeping elements in your head is if you're basing the character on someone you know, or the location on a place where you've been. Still, this only gets you so far, and even then, do you really know every detail?
2) IT'S WRITTEN DOWN
Better than nothing, but you can aim higher. Text files should be for tracking plot points, birthdays, and dorm room assignments, not hair colour. If Julie returns from vacation, and you have to check your file for her weight, you're doing it wrong. (Or maybe all your characters are the same weight - in which case you might also be doing it wrong.) Sketch her, colour her, stick her up on your wall. Maybe she's a stick figure. Who cares? List vitals underneath if it's not apparent enough.
This way, you're less likely to forget about character features or insecurities - and if you happen to be a serial writer, that can be all too easy. Granted, if you end up with a LOT of characters, as is the case with me, you may have to move them off the wall, into a file folder. Still, perhaps post up a group shot instead - maybe even of that dorm room assignment! - which is additionally helpful for seeing relative heights, plus who's happy to be in the picture versus who's less thrilled.
Fringe benefit: You'll have actual characters staring at you, telling you to write, as opposed to that closed journal or directory on your computer, which you can effectively ignore.
3) IT'S NOT RELEVANT
1) Other characters in the story might care, and this could dictate their actions. (Haha, the arch rival knows he's got ten whole minutes to foil the soda meeting, by using hair care products!)
2) The richer you make your world, the more it will come through in the writing, even if certain details never directly impact the plot.
The related excuse to this is I DON'T HAVE TIME, but usually making the time up front pays off in the end. Because you'll spend less time blocked, trying to work out this stuff after already including partial details. My "Time Trippers" story necessitated a sketch of the town for plot purposes. Later, when I realized someone had to walk from the train station to a house, I barely had to think about it, and could focus my efforts elsewhere. Alternatively, if you don't do this, and DO find yourself blocked - maybe a drawing can get you out.
Basically, there's a difference between being irrelevant, and being unimportant.
4) SOME ELEMENTS SHOULD BE UNDEFINED
I'll admit it. This is the excuse I use. So it's the hardest for me to refute. There's even two flavours to it: 1) You want the reader to fill in the blanks, or 2) You want to leave an opening for yourself.
I've done the first case, with James, the first person narrator for my JulNoWriMo "Virga Mystery". He had a backstory and a personality, but no description to speak of. I think there's even a point when he outright says that he's not going to describe himself. Does it work? Honestly, I don't know - read this short and let me know. Upon reflection, what I DON'T think works is making a character or setting TOO generic, merely in the hopes that everyone can relate. (Oh, 'One Direction'! How did you KNOW that I don't know I'm beautiful?? Only you see the real me! Gag.)
|Drawn in an airport waiting for a |
flight, if memory serves.
That said, I think you need a certain degree of self (story?) awareness to properly pull off ambiguity. In other words, you practically have to be excluding the details on purpose, as opposed to never thinking about them at all. Like a fall-back plan, that you never reveal, but can use in case a better opportunity never presents itself.
In closing then, back to the "But I CAN'T DRAW!" excuse. If you really, desperately feel like you can't BEAR to look at your own work? Sketch out a reference, then go commission some artwork from one of the many talented people out there on the 'net. They'll get a boost to their sales and ego, and you'll get a boost to your vision and inspiration. Win-Win.
|MICHELLE SIMPSON art.|
Couldn't do this if I tried.
You got any other excuses? Let me know in the comments. Otherwise, I'll assume you're busy drawing. (Oh, but you can tell me about that too!)