Jennifer K. Oliver

Speculative Fiction Writer

Month: July 2018

Keeping It Real with Snippets

Sometimes you find yourself with an image or a line of prose (or an entire story concept) and you just don’t know what to do with it. You work at it, poking, picking, twisting, shaping, but it never quite comes together. It’s as if the idea stubbornly remains hidden (if it’s there at all), and yet you’re sure there’s something in there that just needs tempting out. I think of these things as snippets. They usually end up stored away in a folder called “miscellaneous” or “WIP,” and few of them ever see the light of day.

Lately I’ve been thinking about snippets; all those wobbly, unrefined drawings and lines from stories I haven’t completed yet and probably never will. A lot of my favourite stories have their wobbly bits. Some of my favourite stories that I’ve written are stories that are not finished. A lot of art I like or images that grab my attention are messy, asymmetrical, or unrefined.

I’ve come to the realisation that this stuff doesn’t always have to be squirrelled away in a misc folder deep in the bowels of a hard-drive.

It’s difficult not to be influenced by my idols and people whose work grabs my attention. I find myself trying to post my work in a similar format to theirs. Theirs is always beautifully presented, always carefully pulled together. Even the “rough sketches” are geometrically immaculate and the “first drafts” are too obviously edited to be true first drafts (or “Draft Zero” as a lot of writers like to think of it: that horrendous crap that comes spewing off your fingertips before you’ve had chance to tidy it up into a first draft. Yes, that is a thing). I don’t always believe what I see, but a part of me still tries to emulate it.

I’m teaching myself to show my work more, and maybe share things that I’m not necessarily done with or massively proud of. I got into the habit of thinking that creative output always has to be finished, in final, edited and polished draft form, before anyone can see it. I’m trying to train my brain into allowing myself the leeway to show all those concepts and attempts that perhaps don’t fit anywhere. Sometimes it takes someone else to interpret something to understand that these fragmented pieces are worth reading or looking at, or might simply inspire something entirely new.

Not quite symmetrical

Big Life Decisions

It’s both scary and exhilarating making big life decisions, especially if that decision could result in major changes to your day to day life. When I was younger I didn’t particularly like change, but as I’ve grown older I’ve come to embrace new scenery and new experiences. On the flip side, when you’re older you tend to have more and greater responsibilities, and a big change can impact every part of your life – from work and hobbies to running a household and relationships.

I would say, if you’re young, don’t fear change. Surround yourself with people who encourage you to do what you want to do and who support you as you make your way through life.

I’ve also learned over the years that I’m happiest when learning, and thrive in an environment that facilitates the broadening of the mind and development of skills. This is tied in with my chosen career path (graphic design), something I do for a living but also because I simply love it. Creativity is such a massive part of who I am that it makes sense to continue nurturing it throughout the course of my life.

I’m about to start the ball rolling on a big life change, something I have wanted to do for a long time but have never quite been in the right place (professionally, time-wise, and personally). I’m not going to say too much yet as nothing is set in stone, but I’m hoping to be able to update this blog more regularly at some point with more graphic design and creative content.

For now, wish me luck!

Graphic design of the Shuffle poster

I’ve been hunting through my graphic design folders and found some of my old story promos, and found the poster I made to promote my short horror story Shuffle back in 2015. I also found the original stock photo of the woman I chose to portray Sarah and thought I’d share a little study in the awesomeness of Photoshop and what its tools can do.

This is the image I settled on, as I knew I wanted Sarah to be lying down staring up at the sky in the poster. I liked this model’s profile and liked the idea that Sarah had vibrant red hair (apocalyptic hair).

After many layers, textures and blend modes, I eventually ended up with this:

The texture gives the poster and her skin a more worn, beat-up look, and I added blood streaks and cuts on her face and splatters on her clothes. I used the Burn Tool to create the darker rings around her eye and darker patches around her nose and mouth/lips, as if she was eroding.

Shuffle was published at Kaleidotrope magazine in their summer 2015 issue. Go here to check out their more recent issues and archives for high quality speculative fiction.

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