PowerPoint gets a lot of bad press. Poor presentations, all authored in PowerPoint litter both the Internet and company networks. Who has not been bored to tears by countless bullet points and endless “walls of words”?
However, PowerPoint can be a very useful support tool for authors. Better yet, using it as a support tool does not demand any skill at putting together presentations.
There three ways in which PowerPoint can support an author’s effort to write and to promote their work:
- Strategic Maps
- Tactical Maps
- Artist Guidance
Strategic maps are useful to keep relative locations and distances in mind when writing your story. I call these strategic maps because they usually depict a city, region, or country. Genre doesn’t matter; maps are useful in almost all of them. However, they are more useful in fantasy and science fiction. Drawing even a rough map makes sure that you are consistent in locations, travel times and other relevant factors.
You can use PowerPoint to create a simple map to keep you on track. You don’t have to be a graphics genius, because likely no one will see the early map draft except you. Below, I have used PowerPoint to draw a map for my upcoming novel Western Watch. It’s simple and leaves precise distances out, but it is invaluable when I write battle scenes.
Even if you don’t need a strategic map, you may need a tactical map to keep everything in the right place. What I call tactical maps depict scenes with anywhere from two to a hundred people in the scene. There’s no hard and fast rule as to the number of people, but the scale is generally much, much smaller than that of a strategic map.
Here’s an example of a tactical map I did for a scene in Western Watch that takes place in the Watch Administration building between Lady Merreth and Lady Tiandraa.:
The map helped me keep everyone in the right place while writing the scene.
This applies to those authors commission artists to bring one or more scenes “to life”. By and large, author are NOT artists. As authors we need to communicate our vision to artists so that they may have the best chance of depicting the scenes as we desire. PowerPoint can help here as well. You can use basic shapes in a PowerPoint slide to depict the positions of people, buildings, furniture and relevant objects.
For example, Max Forward (yes, that really is his name) out of California took my laughably crude diagram:
And turned it into this:
Likewise, I used PowerPoint to take a movie poster, apply some changes to it and provide it to SYoshiko.
She in turn, produced this from it:
So, PowerPoint, the much-maligned tool for corporate presentations, can provide valued service to we authors. There’s no need to be a graphics guru – just use basic shapes to create maps and provide guidance to artists.