I was chatting to my uber-talented friend, Felicity Coonan*, Art Director at Animal Logic, about my starting point for writing. ‘That’s just like a Production Designer,’ she commented.
I’d never really thought about it in that way, but I realised she was absolutely correct. As a writer/author, I am also my works’ production designer. I create the world my characters will brreathe life into and roam freely around. Just as Felicity created the world of the owls for her film, The Legend of the Guardians, The Owls of Ga’hoole.
I’d love to be able to say that I developed this technique myself, but I was introduced to this wonderful approach by the equally uber-talented Margo Lanagan**. Margo introduced me to the scrapbook one Sunday, sitting around a table in Petersham with a small group of writers ( I will write about the importance of being part of a writers group, but that’s a whole post in itself!).
On the table were magazines, art journals, papers, scissors, glue and the empty scrapbook I’d been asked to bring along by another uber-talented woman, Jan Cornall*** (are you getting a theme here?) I looked through Margo’s scrapbooks filled with images of seals, kelp forests, water and misty, mystical images. Although none of them ‘spoke’ to me, understandable as I wasn’t writing about selkies, the process did.
Soon, I was cutting and pasting. Scouring magazines, papers, journals and the free postcard stand at cafe for an image that I related to. I found my characters lurking in Vanity Fair, Who Weekly, Marie Clair and the Sydney Morning herald. I then took it a step further and added fabric swatches, found scents, did numerous location scouts searching for the right house, the right cafe, the right apartment block and photographed them for my scrapbook. I created the world, a visual landscape for my chartacters to breathe life into.
I started other scrapbooks of various images that appealed to me. These books, along with my notebooks and love of the Evernote App, have become as essential to my writing process as my pen/pencil and Moleskine exercise books.
As I went further along the writing process, I would refer to my scrapbook often. Sometimes just to get the right feel, sometimes for a specific accessory, outfit, or hairstyle. Sometimes when I’m stuck, I’ll flick through it, and visiting the world might kickstart a thought, an idea.
Writing isn’t always about the physical act of writing. The thinking, the visualisation of your world, your characters’ world, the walks when you let your thoughts roam, are all ‘writing’. It’s about finding what works and using it.
*Felicity Coonan has worked on films as diverse Happy Feet, Three Hundred and most recently, The Great Gatsby
**Margo Lanagan is an Australian writer of YA and Short Stories and a multi-award winner. Her novel , Sea Hearts, was short-listed for this year’s Stella Prize and is about the selkies. It’s beautiful, as are all her novels.
***Jan Cornall is a fabulous mentor, writer, performance artist. Her website is – Writers’ Journey