How a Pic­ture Can be Worth More than a Thou­sand Words

by A.G. Claymore

Weirfall10quarterA few weeks ago, I found myself stuck on a sto­ry. I’d been work­ing on the out­line for The Orphan Alliance — third in the Black Ships series — and I was start­ing to draw a blank. I went upstairs, got the cof­fee pot run­ning and joined my daugh­ter in the great room. She proud­ly point­ed out the tow­er she was build­ing. It was straight on the left side, with long exten­sions com­ing out from the right.

She real­ly does have a flair for architecture…

I told her she was on to some­thing inter­est­ing. “Yeah, it’s super neat,” she said solemn­ly before scam­per­ing off to find more blocks. I sat down with a sharpie and sketched a rough out­line of an alien arcol­o­gy, based on her project. Arcolo­gies are mas­sive, sin­gle-struc­ture cities and I’ve always been fas­ci­nat­ed by the con­cept. My daugh­ter pro­nounced it accept­able and award­ed me with a cray­on ‘Cause you have to col­or it now!’.

camera-tracking_tnBy the end of the after­noon, I had a pass­able mod­el built on my lap­top using Blender. Blender is a free, open-source 3D ani­ma­tion pro­gram with a very active and sup­port­ive online com­mu­ni­ty. The process of cre­at­ing and refin­ing the image allowed my mind to start con­sid­er­ing my fic­tion­al alien set­ting from a more prac­ti­cal per­spec­tive and I soon had a very detailed under­stand­ing of the city and its inhabitants.

This image is nowhere near to the kind of qual­i­ty that a real graph­ic artist would be able to achieve but, for a writer try­ing to ini­ti­ate the cre­ative flow, it’s cer­tain­ly worth more than a thou­sand words.