Portrait and Landscape. By Dan Cooke

No, I’m not going to be talking about art, though of course the title was deliberately misleading in that way, though of course still relevant.

So why is it relevant? Because I think that writing can be categorised into either Portrait or Landscape. Though unlike a painting, it is okay, and actually advisable, to change which one you are using as you progress through your work.

So let’s talk about what these mean, and how they actually do relate in writing, to their painting counterparts.

Writing in Landscape would refer to when you are setting the scene, before you zoom in on a specific area or person. So for example, “The city of Cuppen was known in its heyday for its sleek architecture and bustling streets, everyone in the city walked from place to place on the surface, for all the modes of transportation had been exiled underground, out of sight, so to not ruin the cityscape.”

This is Landscape writing, it’s broad and gives the reader the ability to picture it, though it is the broad affect that makes it Landscape, as you delve in deeper, Portraits begin to appear.

 “Near the centre of the city stood the old central district Hospital. Being one of the first buildings in the city to be built back during Cuppens foundation, it had been a staple for how the architects wanted the city to look, but being a hospital meant compromise had to ensue, it couldn’t just look pretty, it had to be functional. So now, it stood out from the surrounding buildings, no longer the staple it was supposed to be.” 
Delving deeper gives
 the whole scale of the topic

While Portrait drawings of buildings may be uncommon, in writing as soon as we start delving deeper, giving more than just the basic information, it begins to shift from Landscape to Portrait, the focus changes to allow for the edges to blur and the important information to stay.

The reverse is also true, you can write in Landscape about a group of people standing outside of the building, by not delving too deep into any of them individually, or write in Portrait about one or two of them collectively, turning the way we focus on them.

Where this can get a little unusual is when you wind up switching between the different modes as you zoom in. You may start on the cityscape introducing the city as a whole, in Landscape, then zoom in on a particular building, rotating to Portrait in the process, before once again rotating to Landscape as you introduce the school field trip taking place in the museum, and then finally rotating to Portrait again as you introduce your hero and their sidekick. 

What I think is interesting is that I feel we almost all do this as we create something, we just don’t necessarily think about it in this way, as it is just a natural flow for us as we work on them.