The Monday Street Collage: Details Add Up

Mondays have turned out to be the day I look at the collage and see what I’ve done that week (fitting for a collage for a book called Monday Street), and what happened this week was relationships.

So first, the collage as it is now:

Monday Street Collage 3

More detail, right? Sometimes it’s just more detail, period, sketching in some of the supporting characters and street detail, like Martine, the extremely shady pharmacist (her absinthe is criminally good) and Madame Normand, the fortune teller. (Yes, I know the absinthe isn’t yellow. I couldn’t find my green food coloring so I used pickle juice. It’s not working.)

MartineMadame Normand

But I also found myself putting together important relationships in the story. For example, Toni’s hero drafts my hero into his organization, the black ops division for the country hidden behind the Department of Extraordinary Complaints, a low level bureaucracy where public servants go to die, so I needed to show that relationship, Harry up front as ever and Rafe in the background, working behind the scenes.


And then Toni’s girl, Keely, is undercover as a waitress in the same restaurant where my Cat works with another girl named Pansy who, we discovered this week as we brainstormed in e-mail, is a magic damper. So I did a lousy photoshop of their heads on waitresses from 1910 and glued them into the restaurant. The photoshop is lousy, but the possibilities of conversations among those women that the bad photoshop sparks are not. Plus putting them into the Ear gives them a context and restraints they won’t have in other settings. Plus those clothes. Talk about smothered lives.

The Ear

And of course, there’s my romance. I had a good grasp on the relationship, but I wanted to really write the romance this time, so I googled for “vintage kiss” and then plastered my findings all over the collage to remind myself that this is a romance, damn it. Kiss the girl, Harry.

The Belltower

There are other details I added, like the air fish in the crypt and Perch on the bell tower and lots of details of Edwin, the raven, and some details I made bigger as Toni and I brainstormed the story and realized that things we thought were just details–St. Margaret, for example–were actually going to be major: if you’re major in the story, you get a bigger picture. And then some of it I just added because I liked it. There are a lot of windows in there. I liked the way the windows looked. It’ll probably turn out that those windows are important, but for right now, The Girls in the Basement said, “Ooooh, windows,” so we got lots of windows.

At the same time I’m doing the collage, Toni and I are maniacally brainstorming together on the world, putting up Pinterest boards, starting a brainstorming blog, keeping the story wiki up to date, so the collage is only one part of this discovery process. Sometimes I just do bad photoshops because I need to see what things look like. Like the air fish in the crypt:

Crypt with Air Fish

But the collage is the touchstone for me. When it’s a little bit farther along, a couple more weeks probably, it won’t be finished, but I’ll look at it and it will put me into the story instantly. That makes all that bad photoshop worthwhile.

25 thoughts on “The Monday Street Collage: Details Add Up

  1. Gorgeous and amazing! It’s nifty that you can add and change details as you have new ideas.

    P.S.: Have you seen the remote controlled balloons in the form a clown fish and a shark? They swim through the air and are called Air Swimmers. Good for a few minutes of fun, but I bet the thrill wears off fast.

    1. I am fond of the airfish, too.
      One of the interesting things about doing this has been coming up with the magical elements, and then stepping back and saying, “How does that work? What’s the logic/rationale behind it?” Makes the magic a lot more concrete and, oddly enough, more creative.

    1. It’s a real gargoyle somewhere. It the book, it’s a gargoyle drainpipe in the shape of a dragon that the heroine calls Perch because she sits on him to survey the scenery.

  2. Insert suitable superlative gushing here.

    It’s late, I need to be up early and I’ve been alternatively snacking on sweet and then savoury, facepalm.

  3. Are the other authors also using your collage as inspiration, or contributing to it in any way? Are they making their own versions? My school experiences with working on group projects make me believe that collaborating on a book would be a tremendously difficult thing to accomplish, but, that’s just me.

    1. It is tremendously difficult. It’s also tremendously rewarding which is the balance.
      The collage is for my stories although I’m incorporating what I know of Toni’s story into it as I learn about it. Most of her girl’s story takes place to the right of that fence on the far right side, but she’s on the Monday Street side often enough that I can paste her in and definitely signal where her Warehouse is.
      Krissie has been swamped and hasn’t started yet, but this is my third collaboration with her, so I know how she works. She’ll come in, look at the world, say, “Got it,” and give us great stuff.
      Lani’s life got fraught, so she’s dropped out, but she’s hanging around to cheer us on, so she’s still on the e-mail loop with us and she’ll come for the meeting we’re having in November to get the plot structure finalized. And also for the trips to the diner and the raucous laughter.
      I think Krissie will probably do scrapbook page size collages for her characters; she likes working on multiple smaller collages, but then she doesn’t have the problem I have with holding onto the larger picture of the book. I need the whole-world-of-the-book collage or I lose it in the details I obsess over. Toni says she’s about ready to start collaging, too. But this one is mine, although their stories are incorporated into it because they’re part of the world.
      The Dogs and Goddesses collage is probably a good example of what happens. I put all three women at the bottom of the collage and then did my plot around them. So there are details from all three characters, but it’s Shar’s collage.

      1. We’ve got a powow planned where I’ll be there and we’ll very likely collage in some way. I’ve never collaged in the way that Jenny does it, so I’m curious and interested to see what it sparks. I’m very big on visual associations, though. I’ve always (well, for many years) had either bulletin boards or, during the last ten years or so, had really big white erase magnet boards. I miss them–but they each took up a wall, and right now, I don’t have a place for them. Eventually, I will. On one of those boards, I’d have a loose timeline sort of thing–more of an act break/turning points notations to keep me on track for the big picture. Then on the adjacent board, I’d start putting up photos of the details. This was pre-Pinterest… but I’d find things that just resonated for me as to location, or someone’s home, or something scenic that also evoked the mood of that scene. I once had fantastic readers who volunteered to go take photos of an old Acadian church up in Nova Scotia that I needed to see, but couldn’t get there and couldn’t find exactly what I wanted on the internet. Those stayed on that board for two years while I worked on that book.

        And like Jenny’s collages, it was sometimes the juxtaposition of items on a board that created associations, which then sparked epiphanies. I wouldn’t always know why I put the church and the little grocery store next to each other, for example. I knew that store was important, but I hadn’t realized in exactly what way, until I kept staring at those two photos side by side and I realized why there were echoes between the two. It said a lot about the feelings that store evoked in my main character, and why she felt at home there. It became the cornerstone of who she was, and why she felt good around someone specific, even when she was told not to.

        In the Monday Street stories, the same thing is happening for me. Right now, it’s all on Pinterest for me. I’m trying to figure out a way to mimic the white erase boards here, and I think I’ve got a fix, so I’m going to try that this week. Bottom line is, I need to get the photos off the computer and on a big board so I can play, again, with those associations.

      2. It’s fascinating to read how it all comes together for you guys… I guess getting the right group together is the main key.

  4. This is so exciting!

    I had a nightmare about airfish once — they were chasing me and a Scooby Gang-like group of kids around a circular, 70’s concept (rainbow) spaceship. One of the few dreams that have stayed with me . . . I like your crypt a lot better. Not nearly as cold and nightmarish. It’s kind of . . . calm and peaceful.

    There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on under the street. I know it’s under construction, but I feel like it should be under construction, for some reason.

  5. Wow! It looks great, Jenny. It looks like so much fun. Outstanding job!

    Now, where are my Weebles?

  6. It all looks marvelous. The air fish remind me of that Doctor Who Christmas episode. Is that where you got them from, or is the idea completely different?

    and also, what a great bunch to collaborate with!

    1. I think that was the spark (who knows, that was days ago), but these fish have a different story origin. I love that Doctor Christmas episode. Those fish are just amazing, so I’m sure that’s where the idea came from.

  7. I am really starting to get into these collage updates. And thanks again for introducing me to “God Help the Girl”- cool stuff!

  8. I love your collage. The air fish remind me of William Gibson’s Blue Ant trilogy. There’s one (Spook country?) where they have all these robot balloon thingies in the city. I can’t remember details now. will have to reread the books.

    Anyway, what sparked me to write is a wondering about collaboration. What if your ways of accessing the world and characters are very different? Reading above, it sounds like you each have different takes on it, but you’re all visual in some way. Have you tried collaborating with someone who did it completely differently? Would it be like speaking unrelated languages, and could you do a successful collaboration like that?

    1. I once collaborated on a screenplay with a friend of mine, probably twenty or so years ago, when I was first screenwriting. He’d done a lot of local directing and producing, and I’d been screenwriting for a couple of years, and it sounded like we’d make the perfect team. We got along well, prior to the attempted collaboration, and we had similar tastes. But we approached writing (and, it turns out, every human experience) completely differently, and not because he was a guy, but because he was as obstinate as granite and knew absolutely everything under the sun. My husband told someone once that listening to us in the other room trying to collaborate was like listening to two angry wet cats who’d been tied together and set on fire. It was not pretty. It’s a flat miracle that we didn’t kill each other, and honestly, there were days that the jail time looked inviting. Somehow, we managed to remain friends, and years later, I would produce a movie he wrote (which got some minor distribution, because butthead signed a stupid distribution contract that we couldn’t talk him out of, but that’s another story)… anyway, you’d think I’d have learned from the first time.

      I have been exceptionally happy these last few weeks, with this collaboration. We’re having a blast. I cannot tell you how I have hurt my face, grinning so much. It’s just fun, and we’re in synch. There will be tough times–hell, there are tough times even when I’m writing along and I’m annoyed as hell with myself for not seeing something (grin)–but I feel like we’re coming from the same sort of sensibility, and that makes everything so much easier.

    2. Everything Toni said (g).
      Each collaboration has its pitfalls, and sometimes things get very bad. That’s why I always collaborate with Krissie; besides being an excellent writer, she’s an excellent peacemaker.
      Collaborating with Bob meant collaborating with somebody who was 180 degrees different from me. And those of you who read the HWSW blog know that we fought a lot. Oddly, it was never about the book. We had discussions about the books we were writing, but we were both really invested in the book being good, so when we’d hit a sticking place, we’d step back and look at what was best for the book and talk it out. He was wonderful to collaborate with online, very smart, very focused, great at the big picture. My favorite e-mail interchange with him happened when we’d swapped scenes. His was all action and thinking, and I wrote him and said, “Do these guys ever speak?” At the same time, he wrote me after reading my scene and said, “So, are your people ever going to move?” I learned a lot from Bob. The key was, as he put it, we should never be in the same zip code.
      With my female collaborators, getting together to work on the collaborations at different points in the process has been key, not to mention some of the most fun I’ve ever had. We worked on UMF in this great apartment in the Village and in a hotel suite in New Orleans; we did a lot of work on D&G in that Village apartment (I miss that place so much), and Bob and I met everywhere. There was one time I particularly remember at a conference in San Francisco; the conference had set up a speakers’ room full of snacks, and we were the only ones in there as we brainstormed Wild Ride. I sat on the couch with a bowl of peanut M&Ms and ate them obsessively while Bob paced the room talking, and while he’s a very polite person in real company, when he brainstorms, the Bronx comes out, so he’s pacing up and down the room saying, “And then the fucking roller coaster blows up, and he thinks, “Fuck? What the fuck?” but here comes that fucking strongman . . .” and I’d make notes and say, “Yes, but what does he SAY?”
      Collaborating is really fantastic if you get good writers who love story and who you can roll with when there are conflicts, talk and resolve them. I’ve learned a lot from every collaborator I’ve ever had. Not to mention the in jokes. Lani’s “THREE DAYS” still cracks me up.

  9. I am a lurker. I learn so much from reading your blog. I also get to laugh and get great tips on who to read next. I am a huge Lani Diane Rich fan because of you. I already was a huge fan of your writing.
    I wanted to thank you for the collage you put together. I love your art and the way your mind works. I hope you keep the collage when you finish the book. It tickles my imagination in the way that art should.
    Thank you.

    1. Welcome out of lurk, Susan!
      I’ll probably keep this one for awhile because I’m probably going to keep writing in this world. Toni is for sure. If we’re spending this much time building it, might as well stay awhile (g).

Comments are closed.