We have Australian author Alison Stuart with some advice today...
VISUALISING A STORY THROUGH COLLAGE
I first heard of "collaging" a story some years ago when a workshop at a Romance Writers of Australia Conference was held on the subject. Unfortunately I didn't attend it but I did see the participants, clutching their "collages" (which I am ashamed to say looked to me at the time like something my son would have brought home from kinder) and flushed with excitement as they left the room.
I recall, with something of a shudder, art classes at school where you had to stick bits and pieces cut from magazines on to paper and make some kind of artistic masterpiece. I am a Capricorn and a Lawyer, I don't do "artistic masterpieces" - I do well ordered, neat and logical masterpieces. I really didn't think collaging was for me.
Jenny Crusie is an exponent of Collaging but like me was slow to realise its potential, particularly in the pre-writing phase. (For Jenny's journey to collaging read her blog post)
However as you learn the craft of writing you become open to new ways of doing things and playing with the imagination. Until I started writing GATHER THE BONES, I'd never been one for visual stimuli but there is definitely something about the hand/eye/brain connection, which is why some people still prefer to write their stories in long hand. As I can no longer read my own writing that is probably not a great option these days.
That is until I discovered Springpad. There are so many great options for writers now (I haven't even begun to expound on my adoration for Scrivener). With Springpad I discovered not only a great way to store my online resource but I could actually convert that on to a virtual "cork board" and create a "virtual collage".
It's not much to look at (I did explain about the whole Capricorn/lawyer thing... ). Amazingly, even though I was well into the story by then, it really helped with some of the finer plot detailing. I found pictures of 1920s tennis parties and WW1 hospitals in old churches. What you won't see there are "pictures" of my hero and heroine. I still like to live with them in my imagination. (BTW you can store all your online research in your Scrivener file but the Springpad "board" is fantastic place to see it all in one shot).
As for sticking actual pictures from magazines on to pieces of paper, I was still sceptical until I got to try it myself on a Writers Retreat with my own writing group, the wonderful Saturday Ladies Bridge Club (yes there is a good reason for the name and no, it has nothing to do with cards).
I looked at my blank piece of paper and the piles of magazines and my mind went blank as the Capricorn/lawyer/pantser combo muscled its way to the front of my consciousness. What was I even going to collage about and then it struck me. I had a new story tugging at my sleeve so I picked up the scissors and glue and began to leaf through the magazines. Firstly story was a Regency and there was nothing regency about any of the magazines but amazingly words and images began to leap out at me.
At the end of the session I sat back and looked at my piece of paper. It was no artistic masterpiece but, by jiminy, it looked like the bones of a story. And here it is. Hopefully it won't mean anything to anybody except me but let me just say LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR is coming out in May with Escape Publishing.
I am a "pantser" (although I prefer the term "organic writer") and I was surprised at how going through the collaging exercise really helped me with the setting/characters and basic plot. It's certainly not the whole story but as a kick start to the creative process it has been invaluable and I would highly recommend it as a precursor to writing. All you need is a sheet of paper, some old magazines, some felt pens, glue and scissors. Lock the "editor" away and allow the "girls in the basement" out and you should have a fun AND productive couple of hours.
My new book, CLAIMING THE REBEL’S HEART, has just been released and is for sale on Amazon and all good e-retailers.
Herefordshire, England 1643
As the English Civil War divides England and tears families apart, Kinton Lacey castle is one of the brave few loyal to the roundhead cause.
With her father away, Deliverance Felton will do whatever it takes to defend her family home against the royalist forces ranged against it. She can shoot and wield a sword as well as any man and anything she needs to know about siege warfare she has learned from a book...but no book can prepare her for what is to come.
Captain Luke Collyer, soldier of fortune and a man with his own reasons for loyalty to the parliamentary cause, is sent to relieve the castle. Everything he knows about siege warfare in general and women in particular he has learned from experience, but when it comes to Deliverance Felton has he met his match?
Deliverance will not give up her command lightly and Luke will have to face a challenge to his authority as fierce as the cavalier foe outside the walls. He will do whatever it takes to win Deliverance’s trust but will he run the risk of losing his own, well guarded, heart?
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