Wkly Brief: One Writer’s Canvas

Florence, Italy

Rucellai Palace, Via della Vigna Nuova, Florence, Italy

My pen flies across the pages sketching, sketching, sketching. First my protagonist’s body is roughed out, then the articles surrounding her. Black and white, fine lines. The scenes are flickering in fast forward and I must work non-stop to capture a vision with a sentence, a motion with a word. The bare outlines of the images that race through my brain are transferred to the page. The contours, the colors, the shading will wait for now.

I envision my empty pages as a wall-sized canvas. Just as an artist fills a canvas with a cohesive, amazing set of artwork, the writer fills pages. Vibrant colors will stimulate, shading will draw you deeper, and contours will smooth rigidity. But right now, my canvas is empty and waiting. With words as my tools, I start sketching.

Today I outline the beginning, the protagonist’s hair color and shape are detailed; her friend, much less so. The scene, the motion, the story are roughed out in their simplicity. This is enough for now, these fine lines.

Another day I will return to these black and white lines. I will toss some away, others I will move to a different part of the canvas. I will add the contours and shading: the smell of apple pie, the feel of a bee sting, the sound of the high school band in the distance.

The sketching continues; adding contours and shading continues. Now I am called to sections of my canvas to add the final vibrant colors. The apple pie drips its juices on the oven floor, sizzling as the aroma of burnt apple wafts through the kitchen; the bee becomes a honey bee who softly touches the nape of my neck where the scent of jasmine lingers. In the distance the high school band is practicing, practicing one early August morning, only to be drowned out by the cicadas foretelling of heat and tragedy to come.

Some writers might find the idea of filling a canvas overwhelming. For me it has been liberating. I feel as though I can move about the canvas freely focusing on a section that speaks to me at that moment, filling in empty places with sketched ideas, adding contours and colors. I have heard writers talk about setting index cards out on tables, or sticky notes on white boards. Each writer must find his or her own method for filling the pages.

Are you a writer, searching for how to tackle the large project? Or perhaps looking for writers prompts to trigger your imagination? Here are a few links to help you and you story move forward:


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About Barbara Rath

Enjoy reading, writing, hiking, hangin' with family, friends and my dogs, watching soccer (Go Breakers), baseball, football. Favorite foods are coffee, chocolate, and artichokes. Always thinking of new stuff to do and then not doing it.
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