As I talked about in This Post: Monday musings I want to write about how I through visual inspiration and research construct the different parts of my world and my characters. It took a little longer to put together than I had anticipated. I was very excited to share the images I had collected with you. Then it dawned on me that saving those pictures for my own personal use was one thing, but putting them on this blog would probably be a Copyright Infringement… I know, don’t judge me too harshly, I’m new at this.
So for the past few days, I’ve spent a good number of hours, reading up on what I can and can’t do, how and where to search for Copy Right Free images and organizing and downloading them. After a few day’s of searching, I feel I’ve been able to find suitable replacements for most of my old images. For those of you interested in seeing those pictures I can’t post here, I have a Pinterest for Msfwrites, you can find it HERE.
So, why do I put so much time and effort into finding photos and building my environment- and character boards?
There’s a general writing advice that’s often repeated and that you either follow or avoid: “Write what you know.” Some people swear by it other’s seem to abhor it.
I’m a 35-year-old, white, single, heterosexual woman from Sweden. I’m writing about two gay men in Alaska, USA. Based on this, I think we can all agree I’m not writing what I know. I use my environment- and characters boards to build images, emotions, and visuals I can relate to, that I can build on in my story.
Take Kodiak, Alaska for example. I’ve never set my foot in any part of the United States, and I’m not a person who has the means or opportunity to make a research trip, so I have to find another way to help me build this place and make it feel authentic. I do that by finding out as much as I can, though reading, visuals, youtube, documentaries and music, and then connecting that combined knowledge to my own personal experiences.
This image is from Alaska. There are mountains in Sweden, but not where I live.
But, those blue flowers, they’re Lupines, Lupiner in Swedish. I know those flowers, they always bloom in June when summer finally arrives. When I was young me, and my mother lived close to a big field that, come June every year, would explode with lupines in every available color—blue, white, pink, red. She loved them, and every weekend when she cleaned our apartment she would send me out to that field and pick a huge bouquet of them.
I found it annoying back then, but now I love them—they represent that satisfied feeling you get when you sit down on the couch with a cup of coffee after cleaning your home. My mother, in turn, loved them not only because she thought they were beautiful, but because her paternal grandfather loved them and grew them in his garden.
The last bouquet of flowers I ever picked my mother was on Midsummer Eve 2015. Midsummer is always celebrated at the end of June, and I was able to find a large patch of blue lupines that I picked for her.
So, that picture might be of blue lupines in Alaska, but I can still emotionally connect to it. That means there is something in Alaska, I understand and can relate to.
You see this image with the cliffs and the water?
We have no whales where I live and no snowy mountain peaks. But here’s a picture I took awhile back while out for a walk, this is where I’m from.
Rugged cliffs and ocean, I know that image. I know what the salty wind feels like when it hit’s your face, and it will because on an island it’s always windy.
And this, also Alaska…
I know what a pine forest smells like. How quiet it is. What a pine needle tastes like when you chew on it and how it feels to walk on moss. The serenity you feel when after hours of walking you reach that lake, deep in the forest. These pictures were from a mushroom picking trip three years ago.
I know what it’s like to drive down a straight road and all you can see is black tarmac and green forest for miles ahead. You feel like the forest has swallowed you whole and will never let you out again. It doesn’t matter that it’s 2017 and you know civilization isn’t that far away, when the last bar on your phone disappears, it might as well be 1717.
(On a side note, both of these mushrooms are actually poisonous, so if you happen to come to Sweden and find some, don’t eat them.)
When I was a child I used to, like most kids, break of icicles hanging from fences or anywhere I could reach them, I know what it tastes like when they melt on your tongue.
I know how cold, wet, gray, and bothersome snow can be. Standing at the bus-stop and it’s late, again, for the third time that week. Your toes are stiff with cold, and you try to wiggle them in your heavy boots to make the blood flow, but those two or three layers of socks you’re wearing make the wiggle room none existent.
But I also know how magical it can be. When it’s so cold it looks like fairies are dancing on the ice and the whole air around you is glistening as tiny, tiny flakes whirl around the sky.
You could, of course, claim that I am writing what I do know since the nature and climate in Kodiak, Alaska and where I live share so many similarities. True. Let’s try this.
All of these images are from Bali, I’ve never been to Bali or any country close to it.
I have however been to Zanzibar many times.
These are places with different cultures, history, and religion. Bali belongs to Indonesia in Southeast Asia and Zanzibar to Tanzania, Africa. They are literally continents apart but still, I bet what I experience in Zanzibar could help me if I ever decided to write a story set in Bali. Research by reading can only do so much, it can give me facts, anecdotes, and numbers. Stories of people and information about the weather. But it’s when I compare these images from Bali and Alaska, with my own, either actual pictures or memories, that I can feel a connection. It triggers my sense memory and brings back emotions and experiences.
I don’t know Alaska, and I don’t know Kodiak, but I do know lupines, forests, what it’s like to live on an island, how pine smells and how snow sounds when you walk on it—and how different those sounds can be depending on what type of snow it is.
I don’t know what a tropical rain feels like in Bali, but based on how they feel in Zanzibar, I can make a pretty good guess. By doing this research and assembling these pictures, I can use what I do know, and make it relatable to myself and through that to you as readers as well.
Or, that’s my goal anyway.
So, that’ what I would like to share with you with this series of posts I’m planning. I want to give you a glimpse of what I see and how I connect it to what I know. And if you by chance someday actually read this story, maybe you’ll feel more at home.
Unless credited, all images displayed on this blog are either mine or Copy Right Free and released under Creative Commons CC0. They are available for free at one or more of the following places: Max Pixel, Flickr, Public Domain Archive, Pixabay or Gratisography