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Hone your writing craft to pre-think your story

Photography and writing share many creative principles. One of these is the art of pre-visualization or pre-thinking the creative process.

Recently, I went on a photo tour to Sedona, Arizona, known for its towering red rocks. Our guide led us to a spot with a view of a place called Thunder Mountain. The view was pretty, but we needed clouds along with the glow of the setting sun to create a distinctive photo. The only clouds were off to the side above a range of rock formations.

The next day, I happened to see a photograph from the shoot. The photographer had pre-visualized the end result. He’d focused his attention on the adjacent ridge. He used a polarizing filter and multiple exposures combined with sidelight to capture the sky, the small wisp of clouds, and the texture and color of the rocks.

This is an example of how some creative products are only possible through planning and pre-visualization — the knowledge and ability to “see” what is possible.  The photographer knew the traditional shot wouldn’t be as spectacular without clouds, so he looked for another creative opportunity.

But it’s one thing to think of a creative possibility, and another to carry it out. That shot required a blend of the artist’s eye and technical skills artists gain from knowing their craft.

Some of what writers do in the revision stage of writing can replace pre-visualization, but even then, only if the writer possesses the skill and knowledge to know what is possible.

So how can we as writers make better creative choices?  We’ll know what is possible by honing our creative skills. This comes from reading and analyzing great literature and above all, writing and more writing. If you would like more insight into how to read analytically, check out Reading Like a Writerby Francine Prose. For insight into the creation of short stories, read The Story Behind the Story, 26 stories by contemporary writers and how they work, edited by Peter Turchi and Andrea Barrett.

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