Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On Paper Dolls and Inspiration

When I was about 6 or 7 years old, one of my FAVorite things to do was make paperdolls. I’d collect some good paper and a new box of crayons and spend the next several hours (sometimes days!) happily coloring and designing an entire world full of paperdolls and, of course, their wardrobe. Of course, filling in the details of the wardrobe could be a bit tedious, so that is when I inevitably began telling myself the story of these dolls’ world and who they were and what was going on in their lives.

Fast forward some ::mumble mumble:: years later and I’m still doing the same thing! True, the order is different, but as I was doing some pre-writing activity, I became aware as to just how little I’ve changed my process since I was seven years old.

I am a very visual person and it really helps jumpstart my creativity if I can SEE the world and people I am working with. In addition to collages, because these teen assassin books have such an enormous cast of characters, I’ve created, well I guess there is no other word for it, a kind of paperdoll for each of the main character.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I collect pictures of interesting or compelling faces and keep them in a file. When I start a new book, I often go through the file looking for pictures that can act as a touchstone for the characters. Oftentimes it won’t be an exact image of the character in my mind, but will capture a specific expression that is key to the character’s attitude.

Instead of drawing my current paperdolls with crayon and pencils, I simply paste the magazine pictures on 3x5 cards, but they serve the same purpose: a visual anchor into the world of my story.

Sometimes, if I’ve chosen my pictures accurately enough, just putting some of the cards together immediately sparks a sense of what interpersonal dynamics will be at play.

And no, I do not think of this as procrastination, but more like feeding the muse.


Mae said...

When I was little, I came up with the most convoluted, cliched, Mary Sue-ish, insane stories for my dolls. Now that I'm twelve, I like to think my stories are better- and it's sort of changed. I like to play dress-up games and make my characters. It helps me visualize them. (It's also a good way to help with description.)

I also love finding songs that fit characters. I love the feeling of 'Hey, doesn't that sound like Marissa talking'?

P.S. Thank you for changing the comments.

Peggy Eddleman said...

I loved making paper dolls as a kid, too! I totally say you can call it feeding the muse. Who says that sitting down with paper and scissors is procrastination? Not me!