04 August 2009

Guest Post: Pam Ripling on Writing and Photography

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Pam Ripling. Not only does she write mysteries (a favorite genre of mine) but she is also a photographer. If you've ever spent more than 5 seconds on this blog, then you will know that Pam and I are a great match: books and a camera, what more could you want? Here's a bit about Pam's latest book:

From Amazon: "Amy Winslow isn't looking for a mystery; she doesn't even like secrets. In fact, secrets have nearly destroyed her life. So, when a terrible accident forces her to take control of her brother's mysterious California lighthouse, Amy finds herself immersed in its shocking past and uncertain future. Enchanted by the mystery, she refuses to rest until she finds out who died in the aging white beacon, and why. Case McKenna hasn't quite reconciled his own painful history when he sails his crippled boat into Newburg Harbor, intending to stay only long enough to make repairs. His plans change when he becomes entangled with a local couple intent on restoring a long-shuttered lighthouse. Despite an overwhelming urge to flee, Case follows intrigue and passion, as he, too, finds himself drawn in by Point Surrender."


And, now, let's hear from Pam (click on the photos for a larger view):

A Story’s Worth a Thousand Pictures

Wait. Shouldn’t that read, “A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words”? Perhaps, if you are in the advertising business. One carefully composed photograph, painting or sketch can certainly convey an entire idea, or story, to its viewer. How many pages of text would it take to adequately describe a picture of, say, an English garden, its many varieties of colorful flowers and shrubs? I guess that would depend on the level of detail, and the talent of the author.

Picture books might be the perfect marriage of these two worlds. But at some point, we graduate to books without pictures, and start relying upon our own imaginations and the author’s words to create that picture perfect story image. While a photo is a fixed image, capturing its subject in one exacting form, a writer can alter and enhance the picture she creates simply by adding or changing her descriptive words.

What place, then, do photographs have in a writer’s world? First of all, I consider two kinds of pictures: those you take with a camera, and those you create in your mind. Both have an effect on your creativity. Here’s an example. On the wall above my desk, I have pinned a large color photograph of Heceta Head Lighthouse (Oregon). It’s an exquisite view of the lantern, the tower, the bluff and the ocean. And while it might, indeed, be worth a thousand words, those thousand words could be mine as I write my next romantic mystery. That one photo can inspire me to write a whole novel, filled with thousands of images that I create to make my story work.

I happen to love photography. I almost never leave the house without a camera of some kind. There is something magical about capturing that sublime moment, that stop-action shot, that perfect sunset. It’s no coincidence that the word composition has to do with both artistic and literary endeavors. Being a writer means always seeing, composing, creating, being aware of one’s surroundings and storing all those images for later use. Sometimes with a camera, sometimes with memories. Consider this passage, from Point Surrender. Hero Case McKenna is in his sailboat, the Dream, traveling south along the northern California coast:

He must have dozed. For when he next opened his eyes, they fixed upon a steep, craggy cliff with the setting sun at his back. He didn't move at first, so complete was his shock and confusion. The boat's proximity to the coast alarmed him, yet still Case remained frozen to the spot. The water no longer looked like glass. It churned and roiled around him, pushing the Dream closer to the huge jutting rocks at the base of the cliff.

Suddenly propelled into action, Case quickly made his way to the helm and started the engine. He had to get the sailboat away from the rocks and back out to sea. Struggling and sputtering, the motor whirled into life. Case grabbed the wheel, turning the Dream about and motoring away from the dangerous shoreline. Once he was several yards away, he turned to look back at the treacherous cliffs. His breath caught in his chest. There, about halfway to the top of the cliff, stood a blindingly white lighthouse perched on an outcropping below the bluff. Case's eyes widened in awe.

"How the hell did I get here?" he muttered, staring hard at the lighthouse.


Because I have been sailing, and because I have seen this lighthouse, I was able to write this scene, creating just one of a thousand “pictures” found in Point Surrender.

What do you see in the second photograph? Do you see a stunning view of the southern California coastline? Do you see a bit of the brass portion of the lighthouse’s Fresnel lens? Or do you see the peeling paint, the missing windowpane?

Do you see a story waiting to be told?

* * * * * * *
A huge thank you to Beth for hosting me today! What a super terrific site! I felt immediately at home. Be sure to stop by Write First, Clean Later with L. J. Sellers, tomorrow, August 5th, where I’ll be jabbering about Finding Time to Be Yourself (and Staying Sane!)

Thank you so much for stopping by, Pam. Learning about the connection between composing a photograph and composing a story was fascinating. I, too, rarely leave home without my camera.



Pam Ripling, who also writes as Anne Carter, is the author of paranormal romantic mystery, POINT SURRENDER, from Echelon Press, Amazon, and for your Kindle, iPhone or other e-formats, Fictionwise. Visit Anne at BeaconStreetBooks.com.

18 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks 8/4/09, 8:50 AM  

That's such an interesting point, about the connection between photography and writing. Thanks for posting this great interview!

bermudaonion 8/4/09, 10:03 AM  

I love it! She's so right about there being two kinds of pictures!

Molly 8/4/09, 10:26 AM  

The timing for this post was perfect for me! This summer I decided that what I really want to do is to try to marry photography with writing (and hopefully some traveling). I need to take some photography classes so that I can take a "good" picture, and of course I need to better my writing skills, but I have a goal and I am very excited by it.

How wonderful to read about other authors who also see the close connection between photographic images and the written story.

Thanks so much for sharing!

Sandy Nawrot 8/4/09, 10:47 AM  

You are going to laugh at me. I started reading this post, and thought it was you talking about writing your next mystery novel. I did a double take. Beth! Did you start writing mystery novels? Haha. You probably could! Anyway, loved this guest post. As I said earlier today, you have make me so aware of the pictures I take. I LOVE (can't make it big enough) the picture taken from the top of the lighthouse. I happen to be a lighthouse nut, but that one, with the lense in the foreground, and the ocean in the back. Brilliant.

Margot 8/4/09, 12:09 PM  

I love an author who draws a picture with words. And now I see how the connection with photography enhances those word pictures. Very interesting guest post. Thanks Pam for being a guest here today.

Pam Ripling 8/4/09, 12:21 PM  

Thank you all for the kind comments! This subject was a lot of fun to explore. Sandy, The photo taken from the inside of the lantern room is Point Vicente Lighthouse in So. California. I can't tell you what a thrill it is for me to have been there.

My website is an organized tangle of lighthouses, heroes, reviews and ramblings--I hope you'll visit and bookmark!

Pam
http://beaconstreetbooks.com

Mary Cunningham 8/4/09, 1:42 PM  

Love this post! I often use pictures to help write scenes or describe characters.

Oh, and I loved Point Surrender! Can't wait for the next one.

Mary

http://www.marycunninghambooks.com
http://www.cynthiasattic.blogspot.com

Alyssa Montgomery 8/4/09, 4:16 PM  

What a great way to show the connection between pictures and words - a picture of a lighthouse that can influence an entire novel! I have to say that I'm also a fan of both photography and reading. Great interview!

~~Alyssa
http://www.alyssamontgomery.com
http://amontgomery99.blogspot.com

EchelonPress 8/4/09, 4:41 PM  

This is a huge topic for me as my hubby and I have decided to take up photography as a hobby. Him for relaxation and me for that and maybe some inspiration.

I am a very visual person and that is one of the wonderful things about Pam's writing, she can take a series of words and paint such a vivid picture that you have no trouble seeing it in your mind as you are reading.

Karen Syed
http://klsyed.com

Diane 8/4/09, 5:38 PM  

There is nothing more satisfying than when an author can paint a vivid picture through her writing. This was a great post, and a new author for me to try: thanks so much.

Beth Kephart 8/4/09, 7:18 PM  

I can't write anymore if my camera is not near, if a photo isn't within reach. Thank you for this.

Julie P. 8/4/09, 7:25 PM  

How very neat to find someone who has so much in common with you! I love hearing about how you can see so many different things in the same picture.

Pam Ripling 8/4/09, 7:54 PM  

Maybe we are what they call "visual learners" - seeing is everything. People are always commenting to me that I see more than most. I notice things others don't.

Natasha @ Maw Books 8/4/09, 8:43 PM  

Books and photography - two of my great loves! (I majored in photography). Taking photos of gardens while carrying a good book, even better! Thanks for a great guest post that reminded me of my loves.

Melody 8/4/09, 8:48 PM  

I enjoyed reading this post, Beth!
Photography and the aspect of writing always fascinate me!!

Serena 8/5/09, 10:06 AM  

Apparently I have two things in common with you and Pam! I love photography and books!

This was a fantastic guest post, and I agree that pictures can spur stories or in my case poems.

Dorte H 8/5/09, 5:05 PM  

This was such a great and encouraging post for those of us who try to write.
Sometimes I use photos if I only visit a ´setting´ briefly, but on the whole I can see places, rooms, people and situations in my mind when I settle down to write a manuscript. So the problem is not the picture, but the hundred thousand words.

wisteria 8/5/09, 8:39 PM  

Beth and Pam thank you so much.
Pam you're description of how visuals enhance your ability to write is just wonderful. I teach media and visual literacy to K-5 students and I am going to save this post to show them when school starts back.
The lighthouse photo has so much to say. All I can see is the white iron chain railing circling the amber lamp. My mind is flashing through a number of scenarios all of which pertain to falling from this very high pinnacle. Obviously, I have a fear of heights. LOL

Thanks for your thoughts and stopping by Beth Fish Reads.

Thanks for stopping by. I read all comments and may respond here, via e-mail, or on your blog. I visit everyone who comments, but not necessarily right away.

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