Novel: The Collage

When I decided to write a novel I thought I had this great idea, but I also felt as though I needed a little something more to help me get organized. Then back in December I read about this class taught by author Lani Diane Rich (via Tawna Fenske's blog) called Discovery, for fleshing out a novel idea. So I signed up.

Lani teaches various techniques for writers to get a feel for their story, plan it out and build it up, before actually starting the writing. We've done various exercises to help do that, but perhaps the most interesting so far has been creating a collage.

The idea behind the collage is to create something visual representing your novel, something that tells your story.

The great thing here is I kind of wanted to do something like this anyway. Since I am writing a mystery/thriller story, I wanted my collage to be something visually representing that kind of story. My idea was to make it look like an evidence board in a police station, something like what you may have seen on Dexter or Flash Forward.

So I bought two bulletin boards, two feet by three feet, to use as my base, and mounted them on the wall.

Next I had to gather materials to put on the board. Wifey had some construction paper and we came up with some cross stitch thread as well, along with a huge pile of pushpins.

First I needed a backdrop to mount my specific pieces on, so since my story is set in good old Portland, Oregon, I pinned up some old maps of the city.

Then it was time to fill in specifics. My original idea was to put characters on the left board and pictures representing key scenes, actions, or settings on the right. I wanted the pictures on the right to tie to specific places in the city, but given that much of it happens in the same general area that proved to not be possible.

Also, the characters - one of our previous exercises was to "cast" the characters in our novel using actual actors. Those pictures represent my characters.

The final piece was to use the thread, wrapping it around pushpins, to tie characters to events and settings, and then back to other characters. This is what really gave it the feel I wanted of something that would be in a police station. (And let me tell you, police stations must have people who only do this - tying off those threads took me over two hours just for the few shown. Yikes!)

And voila!

It actually turned out better than I expected, since I don't think of myself as very creative in this way. It's not perfect, but it definitely looks like what was in my head. I need to still add more to the right board. Also, I really like the maps, but they are also very busy and colorful, which makes it a little distracting. Perhaps I could have gotten around that by making the construction paper borders thicker. The color of the strings also has no meaning on this board - ideally they would.

But hey, it was actually pretty fun and I think it will be very helpful. It's to the wall on my immediate right as I sit where I will write the novel, so anytime I have a case of writer's block I can lean back in my chair and lose myself in what's on the wall, looking for some inspiration.

And yes, I would definitely recommend Lani's class over at Storywonk. It has been helpful already!