Pepcid AC is advergaming the new maximum-strength version of their product with Max My Dream*, which takes a brief description of your dream and generates a visual interpretation of it. I tried it several times, and while they were right on the money with my I-can-fly! dream, they didn't really nail me witnessing the Apocalypse via incurable plague or the one where I'm conscious during open-heart surgery. For which I'm pretty grateful, actually.
Visualization of a concept is an important part of writing for me. If I can see a scene in my head, I can write it, and my imagination is already pretty well-stocked with faces, places and things. Painting, sketching and photo-shopping also help when I have an idea I want to turn into a visual reference, particularly with settings and characters (as was the case with creating this watercolor from a StarDoc novel scene for a long letter I sent a friend.) Creating art is a great way to get to know the story element you're depicting and serves as a jog for little details that might otherwise slip your mind while you're at the keyboard.
Mood and style are integral to vivid visualization. For mood, I always go to music because it fires my imagination and sets a tone in my head. Instrumental tunes work best for me because I'm not distracted by a singer's voice or derailed by the lyrics. They also offer a wider range of interpretation; often I can use one piece for several different scenes or books. Poetry is also another mood-setter for me, and I have a collection of poems and poets I'll read specifically to tap into different parts of my emotions.
Style is all about the forest, not the trees, of imagery. One thing I really enjoyed about all the Underworld movies was the intricacy and consistency of the dark, bleak dystopian world of the vampires and the Lycan. Here's a still of Selene, the protagonist from the first two Underworld movies, and even something as simple as the marble balcony has that blackened, neglected look to it. Battlestar Galactica (the new series) was another show that offered incredible styling which suited the storyline and bucked the traditional bright-and-shiny Utopian soft-serve SF television shows generally deliver. Battlestar was gritty, realistic and very, very human, especially with the cast choices.
Mood and style are not about perfection, btw, unless you're writing a story about the perfect world of pretty people who all live in palaces. My skin is crawling just typing that line. Sure, I've written my fair share of Pretty People -- most under pressure from editors who didn't like the originals -- but the older I get, the less I want them in my books. They're like Barbie dolls, all smiling and staring at you with those creepy blank eyes. No, give me characters with scars and tattoos and bad haircuts and handicaps. Five foot tall heroes. Heroines who will never ever shop at te 5-7-9 store. And make a few of those Dudley Dastardly mustache-twirling butt-ugly antagonists pretty and perfect instead. Would mix things up a bit if the to-die-for guy is actually the homicidal one, yes?
Some other ways to boost your story visualizations:
Create a visualization journal for your project. Divide it into sections for different story elements: characters, settings, time period, theme and detailing are all good, but tailor it to what you want to explore visually. Then start filling it up with images that illustrate in any manner that particular element -- body models, architecture, paintings, sketches, found objects, fabrics or anything that relates directly to and/or enhances your vision. If there are keywords or notes you want to add, write them as captions to the images. Before you begin writing a scene, go through your journal and refresh your imagination as to the specific look you want.
Build a slideshow of images to follow your storyline. Open it with an image that captures the beginning of your story, and then progress from there (to do one for free online with different formats and theme music, check out Slide.com. The music doesn't seem to play anymore, but you can see the slideshow I made of Darkyn cover art over on the stories blog here.)
Take one location from your story and try to find one that is similar to it in your area. Pay a visit with a camera and notebook, and take some snapshots of details that you can use in your story. Write down notes on things you see that you didn't think of, and pay special attention to things like light, sounds, smells, textures as well as how being in that place makes you feel. This is a shot I took one night recently while getting some visuals on what a small country town feels like after the shops close and everyone has gone home for the night. Feels a little spooky, especially when dozens of bats began pouring out of one restaurant's chimney -- one place I don't think I will be in a hurry to make reservations at anytime soon.
For those of you who like book videos and have the technical means and know-how, consider making a visualization video that relates to your story. Readers are always making dream cast videos, why not do one of your own for your story? Hunt down photos of models or actors who are good matches for your characters and intersperse them with pics of your setting or places that fit into your world-building. Try finding one image for each chapter.
Do you writers out there do anything interesting or fun to help with your story visualizations? Let us know in comments.
*Link found over at The Presurfer