Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Story Wall

Hi folks!

Today I'm going to tell you a little bit about my story wall on the request of my friend Julia (she's a much better blogger than I am by the way! Thoroughly spooked me out with a post last night about Mr Able!)

Anyone who's been over to my place since I got back from New Zealand has been confronted by this monstrosity. One friend suggested it was my hit list, last week my new housemate stopped in my door,  pointed at it and said simply "what the hell is that?".

Every time I've done a story wall it's turned out different, but the basic idea is that it's where I can play with my idea's all in one place.

When I was working on my film Stageplay (it was a working title, I still don't have an alternative!) my story wall was loads of scraps of paper and post-it notes with scene summaries so that I could move them around as needed.
The scribbles for Letter's
The play I started working on at Easter Letters To My Mother was and still is in the embryonic stage so it was an opportunity to brainstorm, get down some early character idea's and the major events. It's still up above my bed in case I get a sudden burst of inspiration that needs to be written down. This story needs plenty more time to stew because I don't currently know where it's going.

Now the wall for The Pirate's Daughter has gone a bit crazy over the last few days. For more than a year now it's been 3 large pieces of paper with very few details on them. Names of the main characters, their ages and a photo that looks vaguely like how I imagine them to look. It also had the year the story is set in so I wouldn't forget, and a map of the region, including my imaginary islands.

Something clicked the other day and now you can't see that wall at all. It's covered with wall paper liner.

The section that's grown the most is the character profiles. Over the last year a whole host of new characters has appeared, including a new one last night. Each character gets their own space to tell their story; sometimes it's just fragments of personality, their quirks and habits, while others like to give me a coherent rundown of their history.

Even the ships have their own profiles. I went exploring in the National Maritime Museum while I was working in Greenwich and must have spent well over an hour in the model ship gallery, but I found both my ships, I know what they look like although I've had to bend their histories a little to fit the story.

Right now, probably the most important thing on that wall is the premise sentence. I'm hoping this will help me to maintain focus in the coming months as I make progress on the outline and eventually the first draft.
And just for fun, there's a mock-up of my book cover on there as well :-)
Of course there's plenty of room left over, and a number of strategically placed marker pens, just in case I get any middle of the night Eureka moments.

One slightly odd thing I've noticed about doing this is I can't use straight lines. Sharp edges simply don't have a place on that wall. All the photo's and most of the sheets of paper have to be torn, when I tried to use scissors it just made me cringe.

On the other side of the room, behind my laptop, there's a couple more important pieces of paper, things I need to keep in mind to make the story as good as possible.

The cross-sectioned plan of the ship has become my bible! I had no idea where anything could be found on a ship before I found this, and hopefully it will allow me to guide my readers around the vessel without getting them completely confused.

In the next few days I'll be adding a list of each of the characters key personality traits.

The point of view list has proven invaluable already. Back in August I read a post by Kristen Lamb (author of the best-selling writers social media guide We Are Not Alone) about P.O.V Prostitution. I don't recall ever being guilty of head-hopping but I was definitely guilty of switching from the omniscient P.O.V. to third person shifting, at which point I think every character in the book was fighting over the "camera". So I took her advice and locked it down to just the three primary characters, which has caused a few problems, but I'll work around those eventually.

Does anybody else use something similar, or completely different to explore their stories?