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On Document Templates: The Wall that Made Me Sad

Welcome back to Unstressed Syllables, my blog full of writing advice where you get lots of practice reading. I get lots of practice writing here, though (which is one of the reasons I’ve been telling you for so long that you should start a writer’s blog).

I get practice with lots of other stuff, too — social networking, business building, generating sales copy, and designing illustrative graphics. That last, really, is the most demanding for me.

It’s demanding because the internet is such a visual medium. A blog needs some illustrations to break up the text column. Lucky for me, I know Julie V.

Even with that incredible resource at my beck and call, I still end up on my own from time to time — like when I need an illustration for a story set in my fantasy world. A couple times I’ve used the frontmatter map I drew and colored back in college, but if it’s sharing a page with any of Julie’s photos, it looks painfully plain.

So when it came time, about a month ago, to go back to that same image again, I decided to dress it up. I did some research, found a tutorial on Google, and then opened the image in Photoshop and got to work.

I built a picture frame to wrap around the image, then put together a nearly-transparent glass texture to lay on top of it. At that point it looked pretty impressive, but it lacked a visual context.

The tutorial went on with a dozen more steps to build a fake wall behind the image, but I had a different idea. With Trish’s help I cleared off the mantle over our fireplace, snapped a photo, and then used that as my backdrop.

(If you didn’t click the article link above, you can see the finished product here.)

It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough. I spent some time examining it with a critical eye, though, and after a while Trish finally said, “Well? What do you think?”

I said, “It makes me sad.”

She tilted her head, frowned, and said, “Why?”

I looked from the photo on my monitor to the blank wall above our fireplace and said with a sigh, “It’s not real.”

Finding Firm Foundations

Real or not, it was exactly what I needed — an empty frame creating a much more powerful effect out of whatever random image I happened to drop beneath it. I put in several hours making that illustration for one blog post, but in the process I not only learned how, I also built my own copy of a frame template I can use again and again and again.

As writers, we use document templates in precisely the same way. That’s what I want to talk about this week, so come back tomorrow for a close look at how to find (or build) good templates for a new document type.

One Response to “On Document Templates: The Wall that Made Me Sad”

  1. Courtney Cantrell says:

    The non-realness of my fantasy worlds makes me sad, too.