Using an “imperfect image” in your book

“Imperfect Image”

Nopsi 853 imperfect image

NOPSI 857 at Carrollton Station

“Imperfect Image” – it just might be perfect for your book

We presented a bit of background on NOPSI 857 in our previous post. Streetcars and transit are popular photos in history books. They represent movement, growth, development. In many cases, they also represent a point in history that’s gone, now that buses and more-modern street rail vehicles dominate public transit.

In this image, the photographer left out the right side of the streetcar. It may be they focused on the left side for a particular reason. Many photos from this particular collection were used in court cases. The photographers focused on particular parts of the car.

What works about this photo

Even though it’s a partial image of NOPSI 853, this photo offers interesting details. The 7-Up ad on the front is clear. So is the roll board. The car sits at the back of the station. The street outside (Jeanette St. in uptown New Orleans) is visible.

Related photos

imperfect image

NOPSI 813 at Carrollton Station, 1948

While this photo alone has interesting elements, it works well in conjunction with related photos. Here’s NOPSI 813, on Jeanette Street. So, this streetcar is about to enter the barn, and 857 is already there. The combination becomes a scene. Add an overall shot of the barn and the story grows.

Story Options

What’s the story here? Life near a streetcar barn? Things in Uptown New Orleans? Streetcars traveling around the city? Corporate history? Add a photo you know captures the reader’s interest. Its relevance to a topic may be tangential, but it gets the reader through a slow part of your overall story.

Apply the concept

You have approximately 300 images related to your subject. Not all of them are “perfect” at first glance. Some are interesting, though. Creativity gives you the edge.

Even if you use an “imperfect image”.

NOPSI 857 at Carrollton Station #streetcars #transit

NOPSI 857 at Carrollton Station #streetcars #transit


NOPSI 857 – Streetcar in Uptown New Orleans

New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) streetcar 857, entering Carrollton Station. The streetcar turned off of S. Carrollton Avenue, onto Jeanette Street. This is the back of the streetcar barn. The streetcar pulled in, and likely pulled up further on the track. It was then in position to pull out the front of the barn, on Willow Street.

The “roll board” indicates 857 operated on the St. Charles Belt on the day of this photograph.

Perley Thomas Arch Roof Design

This streetcar is one of the 800-series of arch roof streetcars operated by NOPSI. Perley A. Thomas developed the original design when he worked for Southern Car Company of High Point, NC, in the early 1900s. The design was perfect for the climate in New Orleans.

NOPSI’s predecessor, New Orleans Railway and Light, bought Thomas’ arch roofs from Southern Car in the 1910s. They worked so well that NOPSI continued operating those original streetcars and ordered more. There are still 35 of the 900-series (vintage 1924) in service on the city’s St. Charles Avenue line.

The 800-series were discontinued by NOPSI in 1964. In that year, the company dropped streetcar service on its Canal Street line. Air-conditioned buses replaced the arch roofs in May of that year. A few of the 800s were sold to private concerns, but most of them were destroyed. NOPSI didn’t want preservationists to prevent them from replacing as many streetcars as possible with buses. If the streetcars didn’t exist, there was no going back.

The Canal Street line operated with buses from 1964 to 2004. The line is the subject of my Images of America book, New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line.

Why NOPSI 857?

One of our objectives with Arcadia Coach is to discuss technique. What is it about an image that works and doesn’t work? When does the author include a photo that “breaks the rules”?

I want to talk about “recommended practices” but not in a vacuum. So, before we get into the editorial aspects, we’ll talk about the history of a photo.


Writing Process: Master Outlining and Tracking for Your Novel

Writing Process: Master Outlining and Tracking for Your Novel

I just finished editing the second novel in the Bayou Talents series for Edward Branley, Trusted Talents.  As I am wont to do after finishing edits, I take stock on how I can help my clients streamline the process and make it smoother.


Trusted Talents has so *many* characters, I decided to try to create a spreadsheet to keep track of who they are, how they fit in the story, their quirks, their nicknames, and any other details that I think would be important, especially NAME CHANGES in the middle of the story.

Well, that got me down a rabbit hole pulling my hair out and drinking lots of coffee late at night (does no good for me when my HS Sophomore needs to be at zero period at 6:45 am and I get up at 5:15 am).  I am not an Excel expert by any means, I can do basic sum functions and that’s about it. So, cut to the next morning when I was more awake and able to focus. I used my Google-fu powers and found a few different Excel spreadsheets that did what I was looking for already and all I had to do was test them out and see if it worked well for me.

The one I wound up liking and using is from Iulian Ionescu of Fantasy Scroll’s “Master Outlining and Tracking Tool for Novels (MOTT) “.

I started with the tab labeled Character List’ and page one of the Trusted Talents novel from Edward.  I input all the characters and the formulas that are built into the pages (Remember that I am NO Excel expert) was a lovely touch to make the spreadsheet fill out faster.

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 3.19.21 PM Screenshot of Character List Tab

A couple things that I really liked was when I sorted by first name, you could see that there are way too many names starting with a certain letter, and how many characters have names that are similar (Davey, David).

I sent what I had worked on to Edward, to see what he thought, and he realized that Brooks Stirling Sumner (Silver)’s grandfather had two names in the novel. Remember up there when I said NAME CHANGES in the middle of the book? He was listed as both Robert Duncan Sumner and Grantland Sumner.

Now, I think of myself as being very attuned to that, but I admit even I missed that name change.  This set-up made it easier to fix and find the mistake with a global search and replace function in the master document.

I have started on Edward’s newest novel, Dragon’s Defiance (Book 3 in the Blood-Bound Series) and from first read, had a new spreadsheet set up to start on page 1. What a difference this will make in my editing, and my clients writings.  I highly recommend this.

I’ve only used the Character List tab at this time, but  I can see how much more you could do with this spreadsheet – from the Character Genealogy Tab (one of my other passions on the side), to the Word Count Tracker (great for authors trying to hit a certain word count per day or per week to finish their novel), and the Scene List.

clip_image019 Word Count Tracker courtesy of Iulian Ionescu

In the updated Version 2.0, which I just downloaded, there is the Cards Tab (sort of my old way of writing papers in high school and college with index cards delineating all the scenes/main ideas.) This one is automated, so if you use the Scene List, it pulls the information from that.

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 10.50.20 PM Cards Tab

The Chapters Tab in Version 2.0 will give you a visual graph of how word count length and number of scenes per chapter.

chapter-length-novel-outlining Chapter Words and Scene Count courtesy of Iulian Ionescu

I’m a firm believer if you have various tools and processes in place, it helps you focus on what you need to do, which is write! (Or in my case, EDIT!) Don’t be afraid to use tools that are already out there to make your process easier. One does not have to reinvent the wheel. You can tweak something that is created to match what you need.

Until next time… Don’t fear the red pen!