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.