Snapping Photos?? Breathe LIFE into Writing . . .

I’m old enough that Kodak still means cameras to me. Instant camera was our phrase from the 60s & 70s. Of course, considering today’s technology, it’s ludicrous to think those were instant pictures.

1) First to film – The lucky owned a 35MM, which meant loading the camera was always a treat. Lining it up – perfectly – to catch the leading edge of the film reel (and hoping like crazy that you’d really accomplished that feat so you’d be taking pictures instead of just turning the hand crank). For the novice photo buff, it started with a Kodak Instamatic: a pop-and-click camera.

2) No do-overs — As you shot the roll of film, it was framed or not. Blurry or not. Too dark, too light, the wrong angle OR not.

3) Film development – Then, budding photographers were off to the photo store to drop the precious roll of film.

4) Pictures – Finally, the film results were returned. Not just moments later, or hours later, but days later, the camera buff could enjoy their photo reward. Oh, and the sleeved negatives were the accompaniment, in case, a second print was required.

Stop & Consider:

How often did that picture actually match the remembered image in your mind? 

The memory of the event, the landscape, the adventure?

Even today, with the serious advances in iPhones, Smartphones and photography equipment, does the captured image provide a mirror testament to the moment?

  • Why not?
  • What’s wrong?
  • Why isn’t that image on our social media, final print, framed edition, or the graphic hung on our wall the perfect recreation?
Because – how ever good the photographer – memories are about more than the two dimensional image.

Memories capture:

  • 1) Sound: sea rushing to shore, a child’s squeal, a seagull’s scream.
  • 2) Smell: briny ocean, clean air, tempting scents of grilling hotdogs, smoke from a beach fire.
  • 3) Feel: cold wind, warmth of the sun, slick of suntan lotion.
  • 4) Taste: salt on the tongue, hotdogs slathered with chili & onions, chilly rocky road ice cream.
  • 5) Sight: waves breaking against impenetrable rocks throwing mist high; sun illuminating a dad teaching his child to swim; clouds building, deepening, darkening, threatening until the brilliance of lightning splits the sky.

The photo can highlight one instant in time, but to truly capture the ‘Kodak’ moment, all senses must be enveloped.

As a writer do you store these memories to access when creating a scene? Building a character’s backstory? Designing real-life dialogue?

Life is more than a snap-shot.
It’s more than 3-D.

Life is meant to be fully dimensional. Writers, then, must create the moments, the experiences and breathe those images onto page.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions – and I commit to these sparingly – to develop pics from my camera phone (QUICKLY) then list one or more sensory memories on the back of the photo. I have several underutilized photo boxes (normally filled with junk I simply haven’t cleaned away – ooh, sounds like another worthy NYR). I don’t want to over-complicate the process, so I’m planning to file under settings. Then as I write a beach scene, I can thumb through these Kodak memories and relive the experience, that slice of living in the moment.


The goal: no matter how good my sense of ‘senses’ can be during a writing session,

I always want to dig deeper,
bring more to the page,
breathe more LIFE into the writing.


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