Words construct worlds, break hearts, take you into deepest Africa, or into the mind of a deranged physicist bent on going back in time to kill the apostle Paul (Transgression, by Randy Ingermanson – it’s very good).
Words teach us math, history, science, or how to fold a dollar bill into a hammerhead shark (okay, you need pictures to go along with that one).
Words are magic! I love writing. I love reading – novels, magazines, the internet and mail. Oh yes, lovely mail. In fact snail mail brings me one of my favorite magazines each month: the National Geographic – not to be confused with the National Enquirer. Slight difference there.
The pictures NG chooses complement and enhance their articles. But several times now, I’ve found a photo that freezes everything. It captures my attention, my imagination, and I’m hungry to know the story.
One memorable one is the June 1985 picture of the Afghan girl, Sharbat Gula.
I couldn’t get over this young girl’s eyes. They were scared, furious, and if she was a snake, you’d want to jump back ten feet, quick. I couldn’t wait to read the article. I wanted to draw her – capture a bit of that look. I grabbed my supplies and sat down to draw. While I did, my mind tried to fill the gaps in her story. I wanted to know everything. What I couldn’t find, my mind teased and turned, making things up. Words streamed through like a stiff April breeze. I loved it!
Then it happened again. June of 1997. (June is a very good month!)
Anyone who knows me knows I have this thing for anything tropical. Another wonderful obsession. I’m sure you’ll hear more about it soon. But back to the subject.
I had tucked this one away, then rediscovered it a bit ago. This cover is another show-stopper. A girl, the epitome of a Tahitian beauty, looks back over her shoulder. She’s in shadow, except for a pencil-thin silhouette along her features. Behind is a hint of a blue-gray cloud. Maybe a storm’s coming. Why is she looking back? Why is her body turned so sharply? It couldn’t be comfortable standing like that. Is she turning away from something? Is she afraid of the past? Does she have regrets? (Sorry. My curious mind can be a scary place.)
I flip to the article. Her name is Heiata Roomataroa (can anyone pronounce that?). And that’s all. It’s an article about pearls. It’s good – I like pearls, especially black ones. But the human story isn’t there and I want to know more. So I make it up. And I draw her picture. I can’t show it, because I drew it too close to the original. I don’t want to infringe on copyrights, so I won’t post it here. But come to my house anytime and I’ll show you.
So what is the story? A Polynesian beauty turns from the past, but can’t completely break away? What if she’s abducted, forced into modern-day slavery, has a life that’s far from her dreams? She’ll need a last-gasp chance to make it right. What if, while in a coma, her soul goes to a metaphysical purgatory where she’ll find a way to fix things? (I know. It’s called ‘proteinated-chocolate high from too many peanut M&M’s’.) What if she meets a guy? I start writing and the story takes me into another dimension. It’s crazy and oh, so fun. I explore. I laugh. I sigh. I make funny faces while trying to describe their expressions. I even cry. This is my fifth novel and it never gets dull.
One picture made 97,000 words come out of the ozone. It’s a miracle! I’m ready to do it all over again. Soooooo . . . where’s my next issue of National Geographic? Darn, I forget. It won’t be June.
Enough about that. Have you seen a picture that grabbed you by the throat?