Painting a Picture with Words

Painting a Picture with Words

I stole glances at the sunset over my left shoulder as I drove north, from work toward home. Clouds swept the western horizon, spreading the orange glow of the sinking sun. Broad brushstrokes of color painted the sky.

Turning onto the rural lane I live on, I pulled over, the tableau now laid out before me. I had to stop. I climbed out of the car, zipping my jacket against the early evening chill, and gazed to the west.

“Wow,” I whispered.

I reached back into the car for my iPhone. Snapping photos, I missed precious moments of the shifting sunset’s fire. Then I remembered to simply witness – to let the beauty of those moments paint a picture in my memory.

The long, low profile of Mt. Taylor volcano, more than sixty miles distant, was silhouetted against the bands of dusky rose on the horizon. I shivered as the pinks deepened to purples then indigo, as much from the sight as the cold. After watching the lights of Bernalillo and Corrales flicker on below and the stars begin to twinkle above, I got into my car and drove the remaining minutes home, to the warm welcome of my partner and pups.

That night, and in the days that followed, the idea of painting a picture with words, rather than submitting to the impulse to grab for my phone, percolated.

It’s what I hope I’ve accomplished in my novel – that I’ve created a world with words – a landscape vibrant with sunrises and sunsets, along with cinder-block houses, a bustling office, rattling cars, and a sky-blue Cessna. Have my brushstrokes made that world vivid enough for you to want to explore it? Have I populated that world with characters you’ll see and hear and feel? Characters you’ll want to know, though they only “live” on the pages you’re turning?

That’s one of the challenges of writing – to create with mere words, black and white on the page, the picture of your brilliant or battered childhood red wagon, the spicy scent of your grandfather’s aftershave, the icy sweetness of a wintergreen Lifesaver, the burbling of a mountain creek in winter, or the silky softness of your puppy’s ears – to pique your senses, to evoke your emotions, to paint a picture with words.

I stepped away from posting here for a while, to finish what I hope will be the last major revision of my first novel, which I did just days ago.