Monday, March 16, 2009

Don't skimp on the shadows


Shadows create intrigue in any kind of artwork. Shadows on snow. Much more interesting than just snow.
(Okay, I'll admit the snow is cool, but there's actually a fair amount of shadow in that picture too. I have a hard time taking pictures without shadow, and I like keeping to the pictures that I've taken, if at all possible.)

I enjoy painting. I'm not that great at it, but I like to try. One of the things I learned in painting is that when you make a stroke of shadow under a focal point that really makes it pop. The shadows make the picture better. 
It works in photography too, but you have to get your shadows in the composition (unless you're a pro at photoshop, like some people I know). 

It is true for writing as well. We have to show contrasting characters and situations to make our Main Characters stand out. There has to be a conflict--something or someone to overcome (or be crushed by in a tragedy). Without the dark elements things are flat, like when there are no shadows in visual art. We need those elements to see our characters in three dimensions. 

I've recently figured out that my darker elements (my bad guys) are not painting their shadows in enough. It's time to bring them out of the shadows, so to speak, and develop them more. Now's their time to shine. Mwa ha ha! 

I'm wondering if the law of thirds applies in writing like it does in photography. In the sunset picture there are 2 parts light to 1 part dark. That is generally appealing to the eye. Is that how much darkness should be in our stories to keep them "balanced" (or maybe 2 parts dark and 1 part light, if you're telling a darker tale)? What do you think? 

30 comments:

Lady Glamis said...

Oh what a wonderful post, Lois!

Yes, you really really really need to bring out your darker characters. When I read Parker's character, I was DYING to see the depth of his character... the depth of his shadows, so to speak. Don't be afraid to show them!

I love your photos, too! You are so talented! I just look at photoshop as the darkroom of digital photography. If you saw the actual picture you took on film - without it going through any processing at all before being developed - you'd be surprised at how great it isn't. Those developing machines do a lot to even film... and that's what photoshop is to me: the darkroom or the developing machine.

Whoa, got carried away there. Okay, moving on! Get to those shadows and bring them out! Your rule of thirds idea is amazing. I'm going to have to ponder that one.

Litgirl01 said...

Great post!! WOW! I'm going to have to give that some thought when I go back in and edit. ;-)

lotusgirl said...

Thanks, Glam! I like the idea of photoshop being the darkroom. I used to always do a ton in the darkroom. I just need to get busy with photoshop.

I'm glad you like my theory of thirds. It's a brainstorm that really makes sense to me.

lotusgirl said...

Litgirl, I'm thinking we often skimp on our bad guys at first. We want to build up our heroes.

Natalie said...

Great post. That dark side is important. It just has to be there or it feels like there's no threat. No threat = no true conflict.

Litgirl01 said...

Lois...there is a bad guy in my book who is very intriguing because it's not that obvious. He is good at hiding it, but he dwells in the shadows. I thought of him when I read this post. I had been thinking that readers weren't going to be completely satisfied with his story. I need to really take a look at this. He has the potential to stand out more. Writing is VERY MUCH like painting a picture!!!

You are brilliant! ;-)

T. Anne said...

Those pictures are simply inspirational! Thanks, I needed that!

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Awesome post. Very wise!
Becky

lotusgirl said...

Natalie, yep! No threat is kind of boring too.

Litgirl! Ah! his shadowiness is shadowed. hmmmm! Brilliant? Me? *blushes* Say it again! ;-)

T. Anne, Thanks and you're welcome!

lotusgirl said...

Becky, Thanks!

Litgirl01 said...

Yes...the shadowiness is shadowed in the very darkest of shadows! he he

Again...you are brilliant! LOL

lotusgirl said...

Litgirl, LOL! *bows in all her shadowy brilliance*

Kelly H-Y said...

Wonderful post ... great words of wisdom ... and, as usual, gorgeous photos! :-)

Justus M. Bowman said...

Wordle showed me my "bad dudes" needed some amplification.

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Wonderful pictures - and they perfectly illustrate your point! I would also add that the darkness doesn't just have to apply to the bad guys, but it is good to have a little bit in your main character as well.

Jenn Johansson said...

This is so good for what I'm working on right now. My WIP is turning out to be a very dark book. I've never written anything like it yet, but it is fascinating. I think you have to be brave to handle the darkness. Keep it in control but also let the reader fully see it. It brings out the beauty of the light just by contrast, but it also has a certain beauty of it's own.

lotusgirl said...

Kelly, Thanks!

Justus, Pump 'em up! I tried to get wordle to work. I haven't succeeded yet. I'm going to have to try again.

Kate, Yeah, I always like for all my characters to have flaws. I also like for the bad guys to have redeeming qualities.

Jenn, Yes, the darkness can be very intriguing. Continuing with the picture theme, I've seen some cool pictures that are mostly dark. The light elements really stand out in those.

beth said...

Oooo--such a good topic!

I find that, actually, I need to add more shadows to my MAIN characters, not my villians....hmm....

Kasie West said...

Great analogy. I love photography and I love the 2 to 1 comparison. That's awesome. I think I need to make my bad guys a little more evil too. How fun.

lotusgirl said...

Thanks, Beth, Yeah that's what Kate was saying too.

Kasie, I think it's also a matter of giving the bad guys a little more time in the spotlight.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Ooohh, I like the idea of applying the rule of thirds. What a concept!

giddymomof6 said...

Hehehe! I always know i'm doing good when I find myself falling for the bad guy in my books... Eeeh! LOL! Then i know they're real enough! Gorgeous pictures! I loved this post! Jenni

lotusgirl said...

Sherrie, Thanks. It seems to make sense to me.

Jenni, Yeah, my bad guys are pretty bad, though, so I don't fall for them, but I love them all the same.

Rena said...

Great post!

Leon Basin said...

Those are some wonderful shots. Thank you!

lotusgirl said...

Thanks, Leon. Glad you could stop by.

lotusgirl said...

Thanks for stopping by too, Rena.

JaneyV said...

I love the photos Lois - particularly the leaf one. The black background gives it a magic. I agree that strong contrasts are needed to hold attention. Although there are no bad characters in my WIP - there are plenty of bad things going on. I hope that it's enough to hold the readers focus.

PS thanks for the recommendation about the Accordion of Cards. Great idea. xxx

lotusgirl said...

Janey, Thanks. Maybe the darkness in your work comes from the bad things not bad people. I thought you might like the accordion cards thing. We're from the same era.

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