Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Picture This

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As the ubiquitous smartphone/digital camera transforms how we document our lives, we have become a society visually obsessed, constantly recording our lives in minutiae, rather than just on special occasions and holidays like we once did barely a decade ago.

I must be something of an anomaly, since I rarely take a picture of anything. Maybe it is because I have no family to take pictures of and hence no legacy to be concerned about. Yet, I too am obsessed with the visual, perhaps the result of working in television for many years. Besides, even as a writer, I don’t see fonts, syntax, punctuation, synonyms or alliteration. I see shapes, colours and forms. Pictures are my nouns, verbs and objects, edited and linked to actions.

Conversely, words are the oils in my paint box, smudged, mixed and brushed onto the cerebral canvas. They form the pieces in the jigsaw puzzle, the brush strokes in the portrait, the charcoal lines of the sketch, the pixels in the photograph, the resolution on the YouTube video or the scan lines of the television screen, each word morphing into a visual statement. As a screenwriter, I imagine and integrate music, dialogue and sound effects but it is the image that speaks my thousand words.

Word images propel a story forward: under a table a stockinged foot seduces, a jilted husband hovers in the shadows, while a dripping tap anticipates impending violence. Behind every successful phrase is an image.

Images are now a part of our DNA, a life narrative composed of remembered experience, synthesized newsreels, photographs, movies, magazines, picture books, cartoons, comics, games, mobisodes, branding and otherwise recorded or imagined scenes. We bathe in these semblances since in vitro, the real and the virtual blurring, as personal and collective experience merge into one.

Today, astronomers uncover new galaxies, revealing pictures and story worlds previously unimagined. Physicists describe a universe that is speeding up, pulling apart and dragging us into chaos. Yet, we resist, seeking order in that chaos, building a visual narrative that reaffirms and reassures us. It is the core of every novel, murder mystery, Harlequin romance, comic book or police procedural: an epic struggle played out through visual symbols, continuing right up to the last sentence, the closing credit — the final fade out.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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David Tucker

David Tucker is an award-winning television writer, producer and director. His short story collection, One Way Ticket, is published by BookLand Press.

Go to David Tucker’s Author Page