Wednesday, July 6, 2011

World Building

    It’s been almost two weeks since I returned from the SCBWI Florida Mid-Year Conference in Orlando. For the past three years it’s been held at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and Conference Center. Friday includes day-long intensive workshops followed by the Saturday conference.
    This year we skipped the intensives and went to Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter instead. Last year, however, two of my friends attended the picture book intensive on Friday. Unfortunately, the novel intensive was full, and I can’t draw so the illustrator’s intensive wasn’t an option. So, I created my own “intensive.” I wandered the resort taking photos to inspire the setting of my fantasy novel.
    The Coronado Springs Resort has a Mayan theme. The conference center is decorated with interesting borders, decorative artifacts, and huge murals. 


 The different Casitas have different fa├žades. Those bordering the lake, edged with irises and water lilies, reminded me of dormitories or classroom buildings. Suddenly my main character was attending an academy to develop her gifts. Later she would travel to ruins to find forgotten (or protected) artifacts.


    As I wandered the path along the lake, I saw the flora transformed into vegetation in this magical world of the story. Eventually this path led to the large pool area which includes volleyball nets in sand lots, a games area with swings and slides for little kids, a concession stand, and a huge pool next to a Mayan step pyramid complete with twisted vines and a waterfall cascading down the center.


    Perhaps my characters would find a natural waterfall or pool on their adventures. Might it be spelled? Might it become a trap? The resort setting was helping me plot and plan.
    Themed signs around the pool also triggered my imagination. Some looked like they might be makers intended to ward off trespassers, and my imagination created possibilities for my characters to deal with.
    Beyond the pool was a wooded area and farther beyond that were smaller buildings housing townhouse-styled guest rooms. These all helped me create the academy’s campus and towns or villages to become part of the story.
    Benches and hammocks scattered along the edge of lake offered places for me to sit and record the thoughts triggered by the resort setting.  Later, I stopped at lake-side tables to eat and allow my imagination to fill in details.
    Though I didn’t attend an intensive, my intensive exploring aided in developing the setting, provided hints at plot, and helped me develop my characters. These photos and the others I took have helped me visualize the setting whenever I've had to be away from the project for awhile.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Story Collages

    Sometimes it helps to visualize a character before writing. Since I teach as well as write, I sometimes have gaps of time during which I do not get to work on my projects much. So creating a collage of images from clip art, magazines, and sometimes even crude drawings, helps me get back “into” the world and characters. Then I can quickly pick up the voice and begin writing.
    While talking about creating characters with a group of friends who write, I mentioned my collages. I expected them to react as if I were simply procrastinating. Instead, they wanted to know more.
    So, yesterday we gathered at my home to create these collages. Everyone brought magazines and I showed several of my previous collages. Then we began browsing magazines, ripping out images, cutting, exchanging, and pasting.
    Everyone’s collage reflected her own style. One focused on all the characters for a new project. Another pasted people and items that each character would own into a journal. Another, who writes picture books, made a composite of children the age of the main character to help visualize the reader. Another focused on facts about different characters and found images to represent those character traits. My collages blend character, setting, and items to represent character traits. No white space is visible in my collages; images overlap and pieces flow over the edge of the paper. I also include words to represent the theme or events of the story.
    It was interesting to see how each writer will use these  images to reconnect with a project. The characters and these collages are as diverse and unique as the writers creating them. Not only did this provide insight into my own characters but into the creativity of each of my writer friends.