Share this...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Collaging A Story for "Organic Writers"

I first heard of "collaging" a story some years ago when a workshop at a Romance Writers of Australia Conference was held on the subject. Unfortunately I didn't attend it but I did see the participants, clutching their "collages" and flushed with excitement as they left the room.

"Collaging"? I recall, with something of a shudder, art classes at school where you had to stick bits and pieces cut from magazines on to paper and make some kind of artistic masterpiece. I am a Capricorn and a Lawyer, I don't do "artistic masterpieces" - I do well ordered, neat and logical masterpieces. I really didn't think collaging was for me.

Jenny Crusie is an exponent of Collaging  but like me was slow to realise its potential, particularly in the pre-writing phase. For Jenny's journey to collaging read her blog post.

I blogged recently on "visualising a story" (The Mind's Eye) and until I started writing GATHER THE BONES, I'd never been one for visual stimuli but there is definitely something about the hand/eye/brain connection, which is why some people still prefer to write their stories in long hand. As I can no longer read my own writing that is probably not a great option these days.

That is until I discovered Springpad. There are so many great options for writers now (I haven't even begun to expound on my adoration for Scrivener).  With Springpad I discovered not only a great way to store my online resource but I could actually convert that on to a virtual "cork board" and I created a "virtual collage".

Springpad collage for GATHER THE BONES

It's not much to look at but I did explain about the whole Capricorn/lawyer thing... And amazingly, even though I was well into the story by then, it really helped with some of the finer plot detailing. I found pictures of 1920s tennis parties and WW1 hospitals in old churches. What you won't see there are "pictures" of my hero and heroine. I still like to live with them in my imagination. (BTW you can store all your online research in your Scrivener file but the Springpad "board" is fantastic)

As for sticking actual pictures from magazines on to pieces of paper, I was still sceptical until I got to try it myself  on a Writers Retreat with my own writing group, the wonderful Saturday Ladies Bridge Club (yes there is a good reason for the name and no, it has nothing to do with cards).

I looked at my blank piece of paper and the piles of magazines and my mind went blank as the Capricorn/lawyer/pantser combo muscled its way to the front of my consciousness. What was I even going to collage about and then it struck me. I had a new story tugging at my sleeve so I picked up the scissors and glue and began to leaf through the magazines. OK my story is a regency and there was nothing regency about any of the magazines but amazingly words and images began to leap out at me.

The SLBC collaging madly
At the end of the session I sat back and looked at my piece of paper. It was no artistic masterpiece but, by jiminy, it looked like the bones of a story.  And here it is. Hopefully it won't mean anything to anybody except me!

I have it pinned up in my office and while I haven't progressed very far with the story itself, it is a wonderful "aide memoire".

I am a "pantser" (although I prefer the term "organic writer") and I was surprised at how going through the collaging exercise really helped me with the setting/characters and basic plot. It's certainly not the whole story but as a kick start to the creative process it has been invaluable and I would highly recommend it as a precursor to writing. All you need is a sheet of paper, some old magazines, some felt pens, glue and scissors. Lock the "editor" away and allow the "girls in the basement" out and you should have a fun AND productive couple of hours.