The Birth of a Collage

So Saturday night, I’ve been thinking about the story, and I feel the need to collage. I need to see the church and the tavern and the street, I need to get the tone and mood of the story down. It’s slippery. I want a fun world but not a farce. I want darkness but not dystopia and dread. I need a visual. So I take a nap and dream about building this collage and when I wake up, I haul all my boxes and bags that should be labeled “Wood Crap” out and start going through them. At 6AM, I have the major part of the collage built, just need the base and the back board and a lot of spray paint. I go to bed, get a solid six house of sleep, get up and make the base (a lousy job, but it’s collage not part of my house, so no worries) and the backing board (I love the way the first coat of spray paint mottles on wood, just like a night sky) and then put it all together, badly because I’m thinking about the story, not about what I’m building. By Sunday at five, I have the base structure of the collage built. After this, it’s paint and paper and found objects stuck on as I tell the story to myself and write it down, an ongoing visual notebook. It’ll take months to finish this and the story, but for right now, I have the start of my collage and the start of my book. Here’s the step by step version. Please ignore the mess that is my house and front walk. Thank you.

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Collaging Character

We’re talking about collage this week in the McD class, and one of the hardest things to get across is that collage is not illustration. While it’s perfectly fine to google for specific things in your story, what you’re really looking for is the look and feel of the narrative, and nowhere is that more important than in the characters.

It’s tempting to just pick one face to represent your character and leave it at that, but I’ve found that it’s too limiting, especially if you’re using an actor in a particular role. At that point, you’re really just using somebody else’s character, so I’ve found it’s easier to visualize my people if I choose multiple faces to represent them. For example, here’s Tennyson from “Cold Hearts:” Continue reading

The Three-Goddesses Chat: Book Collages

This is the sixth in a series of Three Goddess Chats, brought to you by Krissie (aka Anne Stuart and Kristina Douglas), Lucy (Lucy March aka Lani Diane Rich), and Jenny (Jenny Crusie), who meet in a chat-room called ThreeGoddesses to talk about everything. Most writers have discovery methods, techniques they use to brainstorm their stories and keep them in the world of the book. The Three Goddesses favor soundtracks and collage, and today’s topic is collage. (Click on the images to see them full size.)

Jenny: Collage is basically cutting and pasting your notes for the book in picture form. It’s a way to get past words, which we’re already using a lot of to write the book, and go to images and objects that evoke the tone and spirit of the book, the same way soundtracks do. In fact, collages with soundtracks can be lifesavers for novelists. Continue reading

Alison Does Great Collage

About a million years ago (okay, probably about four or five years ago), I taught at a beach retreat and met Alison, a terrific writer who wanted to be a better writer. Toward the end of the retreat, I did a collage workshop and Alison caught fire and did something amazing. Then after the retreat, she did something even more amazing: she turned collaging into notetaking, plotting, and real art, which she showed me when I met her again at a local RWA meeting. I said, “Send me those so I can put some of this up on Argh,” and she did. Except she sent it to me at the exact moment I was changing from an old laptop to a new laptop and I missed a couple of e-mails when I changed over. Fast forward three years later and I’m finally cleaning off the old laptop because my now three-year-old newer one is having battery troubles, and there’s Alison’s e-mail with a jpg of her note cards and one of her collage pages. Look at this (click on the images to make them larger):
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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):


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Wild Ride: The Collage

The Wild Ride collage is missing a few details–I never did get the scans of the tarot cards in–but it’s 99% done. Mab had several placeholders, but Robin Tunney was the closest vibe, if she’d gain about twenty pounds and dye her hair red she’d probably even look like her. Bob picked Clive Owen for Ethan–he doesn’t do this, you understand, he just answers my questions and then does his own thing–but I always thought Ethan was Adam Baldwin-ish. I played fair, though, and put Owen on the collage. Almost all of these characters had several placeholders, the characters in the book are not these actors, except for one: Glenda was always Maddie from Burn Notice, for me, with a little less dithering and a lot more rage. Thank you, Sharon Gless.

So here’s the first pass, early in the first draft: Continue reading

The Liz Collages

So I’m starting Liz Danger, and I’m so excited. First person, short narratives, linked together, I love it. So of course I started the collages.

Since there are four Liz books in the series, I wanted to make the four collages work as a series, too. I started with shadow boxes but they were way too small, so I went to square pieces of foam core, no shelf for 3D this time. I was planning on hanging them two up and two down to make a big square, but I may leave them as they are now, leading into one another horizontally, the way the books lead into one another. Except the books access each other, too, so the four square might be better, especially since the last one leads back to the first. So I’ll have to cogitate.

Making the base collage was fun because I was working with the four title colors from Lavender’s Blue, Rest in Pink, Peaches and Screams, and Yellow Brick Roadkill. Continue reading