Is it cheating to use visual aids for writing?
Absolutely not…a solid analogue being artists using live models to get correct anatomical proportions and realistic foreshortening.
Here are three quick examples of my use of such aids in the writing of Siana’s War:
- I’ve had the character of Twilight, acrobatic warrior, kicking around in my head since grade school. I have always thought of her as Mongolian. I laid out what I wanted her to look like in the search field of Google images and found an amazing Photoshopped image of a young Mongolian girl-turned-cyborg. Not only do images like this inspire, but they also make our written descriptions tangible and authentic. Instead of describing something in the mind’s eye, we are describing a real person, albeit one who is on our computer screen. A year later, I was watching a martial arts movie and thought “wow, that actress looks a lot like Twilight.” To my amusement and surprise I found out after reading the credits that the Photoshopped image and the actress were the same (Devon Aoki, who also is a model). I am a big Devon Aoki fan now, though I wish she was in fewer terrible movies.
- For Paris’ home city of Almeraval, I used Venice as a visual inspiration. Going there in person would have been awesome, but with brilliant technological expediency I took a much cheaper trip to Google images. I purposefully changed the color palette from Old World European to a fantastic aquamarine spectrum, but otherwise modeled Almeraval’s downtown and central canals directly off of Venice.
- As I wrote Twilight’s dialogue, I imagined that she spoke like Natalie Portman’s Queen Amidala in Star War Episode I. Having an auditory model in my mind helped me create unique phrasing and rhythm for Twilight in conversation with Siana. The low forced tonelessless of Amidala’s speech seemed a perfect way to express Twilight’s emotionless character.