Lavender 2: The Collage

The other half of the discovery/prompt/world-of-the-book process for me is the collage. It’s not just putting together placeholders in one picture, it’s the colors and the words and the motifs and generally finding out what happens when you put all the random visual elements of the book together to see what the juxtaposition does. Lavender’s collage isn’t done yet, but it’s changed in detail from where it was in the beginning (click to enlarge):



The earlier collage had the placeholders for my characters (they all change and become themselves as the book progresses which is where they are now, so I won’t be adding any more people images, they’re solid in my head at this point), the major motifs (cars, diner food, money, glitz, t-shirts, teddy bears), and of course a lot of lavender. The structure was the two households, not alike in dignity but very much alike in power in the small town, one platinum and pearls, the other onion rings and cars, and the lovers, if not star-crossed then very much tormented by their parents’ rage and the storms within each family. Liz doesn’t want to come back to Birney because of the history she has there, but the Blues and the Porters live their histories every day to poisonous effect. But, hey, romantic comedy mystery, so let’s pick up that pace.

I think in a lot of ways, the collage reflects my basic genre problem here: I really did conceive this series as a departure for me, a light romcom murder mystery, a little bit wacky, lots of snappy banter, EASY. But it’s going right back to the basic Crusie, not really light at all, a lot of people struggling with problems and cracking wise while they try to survive. I don’t know yet if that’s a good or bad thing, but the book is interesting. I like it. It’s still not Serious Fiction, I will never write Serious Fiction, but it’s got some bottom to it now, it’s sturdy. Well, see for yourself. Here’s the updated collage:

The biggest surprise for me so far was the murder victim. Yes, she’s a fairly awful person, but she has some reason to be, some solid motivation because I couldn’t just leave her a cartoon. Plus in so many ways, she’s like Liz. And as I wrote the book, Liz recognized that, and near the end of the book, there’s a funeral scene, Liz goes and she’s upset and I was upset and I cried when I wrote it, and that was not my plan. But there it is and it belongs in the book. I don’t think it’ll knock the book off course, I think it’s necessary, and Jen and the betas will tell me if I’m wrong, but I wasn’t expecting it, it wasn’t what I’d conceived the book to be. But you know, you look at all the lavender-and-mourning in that collage and you can see it was there all the time.

Collage. It knows more than you do.

51 thoughts on “Lavender 2: The Collage

  1. Well, I’m glad you didn’t fight to hard for that departure. I can understand wanting to stretch and try something different; but if you had departed too far you might have had trouble finding your voice again. Clearly the girls in your attic aren’t ready to give way to a new crowd.

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  2. Oh that’s awesome babe. Thank you again, and always, for sharing this good, good stuff. I hate it when my characters make me cry — throws me right into avoidance mode. Time to dive into collage huh?

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  3. Thank goodness there’s Depth without being Serious! That’s what I’d hope for/ expect from you. I read a lot of mysteries (as well as rom-com and some other things, which may be a factor in having no life), and while I like humor, the ones that are too light are just silly, and I feel little urge to re-read them. And go from buying the author in HC to checking out of the library or skipping altogether. Naming no names. I hope that it doesn’t slow you down too much, because, of course, the more the better.

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      1. IGA one buck? I need a couple of pair, at least! Yes, the handcuffs were the first thing I noticed about the new and improved collage! Which is probably wayyyy too revealing ….

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  4. I always love seeing your collages come together. They are amazing just on their own but when you look at them in terms of how they mesh with the novel – freaking genius!!

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  5. HOW do you gather all those bits? Do you have a magazine purgatory where they all wait for you, clipped and scissored up waiting to hit the recycling bin? Do you just go out and buy every mag on the shelves at once and truck out with your cart half full and the cashiers shaking thier heads because you are the poor woman who buys 150 magazines once every six months?

    HOW, how do you do this? Cause I’m a collager. I can totally see the right brained aspect working all of the kinks out of the story and you standing back to this big subconscious reveal when you’re done. The left brained part of me wonders where I’ll store the stuff.

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    1. I gave up on magazines and we took a ton to Half Price books, or we will when Lani’s car runs again. I use the internet a lot and we hit scrapbook stores hard. But yes we have bins of stuff that we’re going to have to get rid of, except we won’t. Lani used to sell scrapbook stuff, so she has a stockpile, and I have plastic organizer drawers and boxes full of more stuff. The good news is, the kids’ art projects have speeded up the emptying out process; the bad news is, every time Krissie comes to visit, we hit the craft stores again. But mostly, really, the internet.

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  6. I love how the cake in the word ‘family’ seems to be flipping ‘family’ the bird. πŸ˜‰

    Love the cuffs and all of the juxtapositions. There’s a patience to this that you have that I wish I had–this is art. I hope you save these. [You could always auction one off for charity, if you didn’t want to keep them.]

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    1. They’re too sloppy to auction off, really just a visual note-taking. I’ve done one for every book since Bet Me, so they’re stacking up here. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them.

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      1. You only say that because you’re an artist. The person who has made / owned something is generally the last person who should set a price value on it. The value to a Jenny Crusie book collage isn’t intrinsic, it’s in the fact that you made it as part of the writing process. It belongs to that book. If you auctioned off a prettied-up and perfected version of the actual collage, it wouldn’t be nearly as special.

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        1. I think its value is in the process not the product. I made really beautiful art collages back when I was an art student, so it’s not my ability I’m questioning. It’s more that once the book is done, most of the collages don’t appeal to me at all. There have been a few–I still love Mare’s collage from The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes–but mostly they’re just a jumble to me once the book is gone from my head.

          One thing I find interesting: Sweetness is fascinated by them. She’s only eleven but she has a really good narrative sense and she writes stories all the time, and she’ll stare at the Wild Ride collage for a long time, asking me questions about why this picture is next to that one, and what this character is about. She doesn’t see them as art works, and she really likes art, she sees them as stories that she’s trying to puzzle out. I’ve been meaning to drag some of the others out to see what she says because she’s such an unbiased observer–as I said, she’s eleven–so her reaction is pretty much pure. Light at eight is completely uninterested in them, and she really likes making collages and scrapbooks and gluing things together. I think if they were art collages, she’d be a lot more interested. I got her a book on collaging scrapbook pages and she was fascinated. But I think the book collages are just jumbles to her, too much stuff crammed together without any restraint or emphasis on good design. The collages are about information not art, so Sweetness responds and Light doesn’t.

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          1. Do I smell a guest blogger in the making? Or do you prefer not to pimp the children? (Though I suspect these are not merely children) I have to say that I’m fascinated myself.

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          2. Oh, I didn’t think you were questioning your ability, just whether or not they were worth auctioning. You said they were sloppy. I just didn’t feel that the sloppiness mattered as much as you thought. But then, I like visual art– I just don’t understand it very well on a technical level. Also I may have misunderstood you. It was late, and my allergies have attacked my head pretty badly this week. I won’t gross you out by describing them, though. πŸ™‚

            It’s so interesting the way Sweetness and Light respond differently to the collages. I love watching children process what they see– as you said, they’re very honest. They’re also more open do doing stuff that’s out-of-the-box. I love that.

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  7. Your collages fill me with equal parts awed wonder and grumbling fear. I’m committed to the Discovery process and doing what Lani called “kissing all of the frogs” but the very thought of attempting to do a collage makes me want to meep. I just keep telling myself that nobody has to see it but me and it doesn’t have to be perfect or even pretty it just has to be whatever it becomes,

    On the other hand, I am enjoying the hell out of building my soundtrack. It’s done for now — for this stage of story discovery anyway. I’m sure additional songs will suggest themselves when I get more into plot points, black moments, and so forth.

    The soundtrack is eclectic to say the least. Such fun.

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    1. Geez, Mary Stella! Be an overachiever why don’t you! I’ve barely started! Good thing the class isn’t being graded. πŸ™‚

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  8. Mary McCormack, Mary McCormack, Mary McCormack! – I think I have a girl crush. Bigger Windows, Killer Shoes. Uh huh. No, wait. Bigger Windows? Oooh, that fast talker Ryan Reynolds is perfect. Love the room with the bookcase and the sofa? bed? sofa bed? and all the pillows and covers jumbled. And Veronica’s doing the aloof and regal thing. That is Veronica, isn’t it? This is fabulous. I can’t wait to read the book.

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  9. So I checked Facebook, which is unusual for me, and I saw that you are running a Master Class in Fiction in two weeks. Do you keep a calendar of these things on this site somewhere I can’t find it, or maybe at the Cherry Forums, where I don’t go? I would go to Ohio for this, but my life is scheduled out months in advance.

    Love the Lavender stuff, busy trying to finish listening to the “It Happened One Night” podcast. I’m behind on my Crusie following. πŸ™‚

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    1. I think I mentioned it back when it was first scheduled which was probably a year ago, and then I dropped the ball. On June 19th I’m teaching a four-hour master class in writing fiction at Thurber House in Columbus, OH. I’ll put it in the blog tomorrow, too. And no, I usually don’t do these things, but Thurber House is dear to my heart, so whenever they ask, I go.

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      1. Pity I love my husband so. I would bail on our trip to Vancouver and go to Ohio instead, but it would kill him.

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        1. Oh Heck, I lived in Vancouver (BC not Washington) for years. Did nothing but rain. Imagine growing up in a place where it rained everybirthday I ever had there. Buy him a book about Stanley Park, and go to Ohio.

          I’m kidding – of course! ( about bailing on your husband, not about the rain.)

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      2. I want to sign up — I think I still can — but I’m scared. My first and last pages are so very rough. But you “don’t usually do these things” and I could GO. If I do sign up, I’ll be the quivering one in the corner who doesn’t have her homework done.

        πŸ˜›

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        1. It’s a small class, under twenty, and you don’t have to show me anything. I’m talking about the core of fiction writing. So, for example, I’ll briefly review protagonist/antagonist/conflict, give you a short exercise to complete, talk about the conflict box, and then ask if anybody wants to give what he or she is working on as an example. It’s only one to four so we can’t cover a lot, but what I’ve discovered is that if I isolate a few key concepts and then people in the class apply them to real work, the examples are a lot more effective and people learn a lot more than if I lecture for three solid hours and people just write stuff down.
          In other words, Jennifer, go to Vancouver.
          I am starting to think about doing a one-day seminar locally. But only starting. For one thing, costs are high because of renting a place and dealing with food and coffee, etc. and I don’t want to soak anybody but I can’t take a day off without getting a decent return on my time. Also, BOOK TO WRITE. But I love teaching and I used to be good at it, so maybe I’ll think of something yet.

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          1. I could be wrong, but I feel this is a matter of delegation. I’m trying to fathom why you should do anything other than consult a little (the first time!), show up, teach, and get paid. I mean, your time is valuable, and there are actually people who make setting up writing conferences their hobby. I just spent a weekend selling books at a Romance conference in Cincinnati that was run entirely by volunteers.

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          2. Well, I’m a control freak, too. My old writing partner, Bob Mayer, runs his own writer’s retreat and I learned a lot watching him. The overhead on having somebody else set up everything is really high–you wouldn’t believe what coffee costs–and that has to be passed on to the students who really just want to learn something, not pay nosebleed prices for coffee. And I think I remember Bob saying you had to have the coffee, that a lot of places wouldn’t do the seminars without that. More than anything, I’d have to know that I had a really good program before I’d ask people to shell out a lot of money to take a class. It’s on my list of things to try–it’s time for me to try a lot of new things, I think–but since I’d be asking people to spend money to support my experiment, I’d have to make sure I was really delivering something worth the expense.

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          3. Oh yes. I’ve always found it amusing and interesting that while some workplaces will scrimp on many things and require employees to pay out of pocket for a lot of things, but coffee must always be present, non-negotiable. It’s the glue that holds modern civilization together.

            And, Jenny, you are still a very good teacher. I’m not even a writer, but I’ve learned a great deal from your blog, and the one you and Bob did together, about what makes a book work. Sometimes I curse that because it makes flaws more noticeable; but I get a kick out of being able to coherently say why a book works for me.

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          4. I would drive from Georgia for this class if I could. If you are willing to offer a one day workshop I will make the drive. Or maybe you could teach it online? πŸ™‚

            I am also fascinated by your collages, especially looking at them after reading the books. I would love to try and make one out of physical materials – I have made one in Photoshop, but its not the same. But I have NO artistic skill and don’t really know where to start.

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          5. Honestly, it’s not about the art. It’s putting one picture or word or object beside another and thinking, “Oh. Maybe this.” You can do by ripping pages out of a magazine and pinning the to a bulletin board and moving them around until something clicks. It doesn’t have to be a big project. Or just do little ones with three or four images for a scene. It’s really about thinking about story with a different part of your brain, not about making something.

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          6. I love it! I’m very curious about the Jack Black character and the Betty White character! So looking forward to this book (and the ones that follow!)

            I would bid on a collage too, especially Bet Me. Your stories are so loved they become personal. To be able to have a piece of the process of making it would have a huge amount of value. No it wouldn’t be perfect art, but it would be… sentimental? ]

            I was one of the lucky few to win a “Uncorrected Bound Manuscript” of Maybe This Time, and it’s not the least bit pretty (plain light blue cover), but still has a lot of value to me.

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          7. Xavier University might be willing to host you as a guest lecturer. They have a few programs that bring in lecturers for evening or Saturday programs and if you did a reduced rate for XU students, the space might not be that expensive.

            I still remember thinking that you were up there with my favorite professors when I listened to you and Bob talk about writing Don’t Look Down.

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  10. I will confess, collages creep me out. Really. You know when you were doing the wild ride covers and everyone thought the cover with the roller coaster going into the clown’s mouth was creepy? Well, that didn’t creep me out at all — I actually rather liked that one. But these collages are creepy to me the way the clown-coaster was creepy to everyone else. I don’t know why.

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      1. I think it may be that they’re all decapitated. I know it sounds like I’m being flip, but not so. It’s morbidly fascinating.

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  11. Jenny, you really are a Very Good Teacher. I listened to you raptly every day for a week during the Jumpstart class outside Charleston, SC a couple years back and I’m still digging that notebook out every few days to reference something or other. You present your material in a way that’s easy to take or to say “Hey, that doesn’t seem to work for me.”

    For example, the collage. I finally gave in and did a collage and it’s taking me freaking FOREVER to get through this manuscript since I did. I don’t want to blame the collage, per se, but when I look at it, I don’t seem to have the urgency to write it down. Sigh. It’s always something. But it’s a beautiful collage. and yours are always amazingly layered works of art…. very Matilda Goodnight.

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  12. Does anyone here have the slightest shred of a doubt that it would be worth whatever you charge?

    Whenever you do something, it’s significant and worthwhile.

    But even your throw-away stuff, like the collages, are valuable. So if you ever feel like auctioning them off, that will more than pay for the coffee.

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  13. Just wanted to say that I love the collage posts and its ended up being a part of my Master Thesis writing process. I’ve been blocked for I-don’t-want-to-say-how-long, and it was frustrating because it was all in my head, and everytime I moved beyond an outline I froze. And it was a post about combining collage with scrapbooking that made it click for me and I thought – I should try that.

    Now that I’m finishing up my first useful draft of my paper, I know why it worked – previous to my grad studies I’d worked on a lot of interpretive programming, or editorial pieces that were handily tied into specific photos, objects or other media. And when I was writing a draft of my undergrad papers or my recent work papers, I’d literally cut my paper into paragraphs and sentences and arrange them on my floor or walls in a way that helped me shape the point I wanted to make.
    But in grad studies I was trying so hard to write “serious” academic papers and living in a cramped space and dealing w/various writing partners for projects and presentations that I lost touch with that aspect of my process.

    It was such a joy to sit down with all my notes and play with the information and physically shape it into a format that allows me to interact with it as I write it, so that everything is fresh and new. I’ve used photos and layered paper to highlight different points I want to make and have seen connections I’ve previously not realized.

    So thank you.

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    1. Huh. That’s interesting Katrina! I found my most successful papers were the ones where I wrote a draft, printed it out, then physically cut and rearranged the sentences. Like Jenny (kinda), I have to write before I know what I’m writing. So learning that my first draft is always a mess, and MUST be done BEFORE I can outline was the most useful thing I ever learned about my writing style. Too bad I didn’t figure it out until I was a junior in college. (I never understood people who could outline before they wrote the paper. Outlines stop my process cold.) But let me write out what’s in my head, then reshape it and make an outline so the structure is sensible, and I’m golden. But I’ve never known anyone else to use the same “cut and paste” method I have/had such luck with. Cool.

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      1. I did that for a major paper during grad school I actually have a picture with my on my living room floor, sissors in hand, all the paragraphs cut apart and partway rearranged.

        My Grade 12 English teacher was a big fan of “free writing” and I think I combined that with my own more concrete approach.

        The end paper was much better than my early drafts.

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    2. I did the cut-and-paste thing in high school and college, and used notecards a lot then, too. And haven’t since then. Mind you, I no longer have to type out my papers and stories on a manual typewriter, either, but I should consider going back to at least an on-screen cut and paste action, at least as an experiment. Hmm.

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      1. I never did an actual cut-and-paste, but when I was working on big research papers I would write points or facts down on index cards and rearrange them until I could figure out what heading each piece of information fell under. I am also one of those incredibly detail-oriented outliners. I outlined my essays fanatically. I frequently found myself outlining paragraphs. I suspect it is a form of mental illness, but it got my essays written, so I gently decline to investigate that.

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  14. Oh, and, yeah, I’d bid on a collage too. It’s a piece of the process, your version of marginalia.

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  15. One of your most memorable classes for me was the one I heard at the Sydney conference on motif and metaphor. I think it was titled Theme Master Class, or something like that. I’d love to take it again. But I loved all of the teaching you did at that conference and it was well worth rearranging my trip back home to accomodate the conference as well. When you talk at National it’s standing room only and it usually last for only an hour. Not nearly enough. So keep us posted on a future Crusie Only workshop. I’ve never been to Ohio. ; )

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  16. cheapest place to host : it would probably be the local library’s conference center and they don’t give a diddly if you have coffee. also, and i think i speak for everyone – YAY for you considering teaching us your wisdom πŸ™‚ I split time between md and ca but I would so make it to ohio if you taught a weekend-long seminar…or if im really wishing for stuff, two weeks πŸ™‚

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  17. I love the collages & I can’t wait for the book. Old Crusie, new Crusie, I don’t care, it’s all good.

    I did my first collage about a novel at your prompting, Jenny. It has served me so well. The collage gave me a key element that I really like about my novel that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

    I have learned a lot from the times that you teach on this blog. I’m sure a class would be valuable.

    Just don’t use up any writing time unless you really want to…

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