How a Picture Can be Worth More than a Thousand Words
A 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!’.
By 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.