Dream Details: Corkboards and Character Pics

Corkboard lust. I have it in spades. Not one. Not two. Not even three. No, four corkboards hang in my writing room, filled with pictures. Crammed full, I should say.

These pictures guide the most basic ingredient of all in my fiction writing: specific details. They help me see my characters. It doesn’t matter that I’ve now traveled with my characters Trish and Maria and Pastor Goodman for ten years. The pictures support me like training wheels on a kiddo’s bike. They stabilize my mental image of a character’s face, hair, hands, pose.

Old pictures of a young Candice Bergen—yeah, that award-winning actor—saturate my description: the square watch face, the pigtails, the sunglasses on her head. Another Bergen shot in warm light is an extreme close up where her fingers curl around her forward blowing hair. These pictures coax me to see Esther, co-protagonist Trish’s mom.

Another actor coaches my ability to see Trish herself. I had clipped pictures of an Eddie Bauer model—who, like Trish had long blond hair. But then I saw Another Earth and Brit Marling in action. Trish! Marling’s appearance delivered needed specifics: dark level brows, a steady and direct gaze.

And what of Matthew Goodman? The face and hair of actor Bruce Greenwood feeds my imagination. Goodman needs good looks to succeed in broadcast. Greenwood, although now aged past my character, maintained a boyish yet dignified appearance. How? The deep forehead, the thick hair, the wideset eyes.

These pictures and their ready availability on corkboards fuel my imagination—and the dream details I need with which to lull my readers.

Excerpted from Creative Juices: A Splash of Story Craft, Process & Creative Soul Care (2019)