Monday, February 21, 2011

Cameras and Characters

“Are you aware you are a Loyalty Payback winner?” asked the voice on my cell phone.

Several thoughts ran through my mind. Was this a scam? Was someone trying to sell me a product I didn’t want? Or had I won one of the three competitions I’d entered recently on our local radio station?

“No, I didn’t know,” I said. “What have I won?” My voice was calm but my insides jumped up and down.

“A camera and four tickets to the Buddy Holly Show.”

“Oh, wow!”

Ten days later my husband, two friends and I enjoyed the show and I owned a beautiful  Nikon© camera.  I soon became immersed in a world of light, shutter speeds, apertures and ISO ratings. I took photos of any and everything.  I saved my successes and deleted my flops with a click of the  mouse on my laptop.

Some of my first photos:

Writers tend to look at all that happens in their lives with a view to finding a way to weave it into their work. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Shirl Corder, my writing buddy, said to me, “I wonder why God has given you this camera?”

Until then I had simply enjoyed my camera, but now I looked at my win in a new light. Why had God given it to me? How could I use it in my writing?

Nanowrimo, the international event when writers sign up online to write 50 000 words of a new novel  during the month of November, arrived.  I had no idea what to write, but I signed up anyway. Now my friend’s question sparked a flow of ideas. Perhaps my heroine could win a camera. Then she could go to the State Theatre to watch a show and collect her prize as I did. What if the hero almost ran her down with his fancy car as she walked through the parking basement? What if he didn’t even stop to see if he had injured her? What if he was also a winner with tickets for seats next to her? What if my heroine ended up meeting him again when they both showed up for the free camera training that was part of the win? What if . . .

I drew on my photographic adventures to write 50 000 words during NaNoWriMo and now have a large part of my first draft of a novel.

God has since given me many experiences, thoughts and ideas for my book. My characters have developed from stiff figures in posed photos into vibrant folk who laugh, shout, fight, dance and cry their way through the video clips in my imagination.

As I take more and more pictures, I accumulate material for my novel, but I’d also love to hear your stories.  If you have any funny, sad, embarrassing or therapeutic experiences with cameras and/or photos, please would tell me about them in the comments section below? Thank you.

Ruth Ann Dell writes children's stories and international Christian fiction from her home in a sunny South African suburb. She is a member of several writing groups including the American Christian Fiction Writers and Writer's Ink. Her desire is to craft gripping stories which draw her readers into a closer relationship with God.
Ruth Ann and her husband have lived in several countries and are renovating a cottage in the heart of Ireland.


  1. I love your pics, Ruth. I know the story of course, but I'm still wondering what else the Lord has for you, that He's given you such a wonderful camera. Hugs, Shirl

  2. A picture definitely paints a thousand words! Fortunately my youngest son, Kyle, is an avid photographer. I can't wait to see what pictures he takes when he goes into the mission field later this year. I'm sure there'll be some great stories just waiting to be discovered.

    As for me, I enjoy playing with pictures(yay Photoshop). Before I start writing a novel, I design a cover for my piece of work. I find this helps me focus on my story and characters. I was so glad when I discovered that James Scott Bell recommends exactly the same thing in his book 'Plot and Structure': "...come up with your own item of visual motivation (and he gives some ideas) ... or your own rendering of your first novel's cover."

  3. Beautiful pictures, Ruth Ann. Yes, i had the same thought a year ago when I won a Sony Reader. "I wonder why God wants me to have this?" I have since learned how to read pdf files on it which I use my Ereader for my own editing and to help other writers. It's also great for travel. God never wastes anything!

  4. Lovely photos, Ruth. You definitely have an eye for photography. Perhaps God wants you to create a story in pictures? Enjoy this new found talent.