On images and people

FliyerI don’t have a very visual imagination, and it’s both a blessing and a curse when it comes to writing.

From the Meyer-Berlin Peace collection, 2010/2011.
From the Meyer-Berlin Peace collection, 2010/2011.

In some ways, it’s wonderful. I don’t have to describe something – I fill in a few important details, and then it’s up to the reader to fill in the rest. This makes for some of the best and most vivid writing, and also means that I can’t over-describe. I’d much prefer to use fewer words than more.

But it also means I don’t know what things look like, and then when I have to see them – book covers, specific items, when someone asks me “so what does X look like?” – I’m stumped. I don’t actually know what the Fliyer looks like. I’ve got a rough template for Catter, but that’s it. I know Eli from Shadows is slim and dark-haired, but beyond that…

Dangerous by Sickbynature
Dangerous by Sickbynature

On one side, I love the ambiguity. A reader recently told me that she sees Aiden as black – sure, why not? He’s a collection of personality traits and a wide smile in my head, so he can be anything you want in yours. The diversity in my writing is as much a reflection of the reader’s mind as it is my writing. The characters aren’t specifically defined, and so they are whatever you make them.

But it’s hard. Another reader recently asked if I had any pictures, any images; he struggles to ‘see’ my characters because I don’t describe them. I found a few images that do have aspects, but…they’re not right. An image can never be the person that’s in my head, and so I don’t have any pictures of ‘them’. I don’t know what they look like, and for someone who needs to be able to ‘see’ them, that’s a struggle.

But then…it’s how I write. I am sparing with details, and I have to work with how my brain works. It does lack ‘visuals’ but it makes up for it with being able to paint in words, and I like that.

The Dolomites


Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at writingandcoe.co.uk. When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.