Mar 22, 2013


I was trying to get to grips with a plot the other day and was getting absolutely nowhere. I had the characters and a setting, I had a conflict- a great meaty one- but I couldn't 'see' how the story was going to unfold.

I remembered a workshop I recently attended where the speaker talked of getting inspiration in unlikely places- beg, borrowing and stealing ideas. And, being creatively challenged, I wondered how that approach might help me. But I was getting kinda desperate!

So I grabbed a couple of old magazines and started cutting out random pictures and words that somehow struck a chord without forcing the process- just seeing where inspiration took me. (And yes- the NZ Rugby magazine was purely for research purposes- honestly!)

After a while I lost myself in the process of it all, looking at the fashions, imaging my heroine wearing this or that, what type of house my hero might have- I lost quite a few hours but gained a lot of insight into what makes my characters tick, how the story might progress, and more importantly, how my hero and heroine feel about things. I don't know how it worked, but it definitely gave me a clearer vision. Maybe it was the chance to get away from the computer screen for a while and just play with no pressure. It's crude and basic- but I never set out to make art, just a way of collating ideas in a visual form.

Collaging isn't a new concept, I have friends who love to scrapbook important life events, and I know the great Jenny Crusie does a complex 3D collage of every story she writes but I've never understood the allure. Until now.

So now I have a story- I just have to write the darned thing!

Have you ever collaged or done scrapbooking? What do you find helps the creative process- or what creative things do you do to help you relax? 


  1. Hi Louisa, I'm not generally a collager either but have done it for one big book and that was afetr I'd started it and already knew a lot about it. I found it helped to keep the story straight in my head more than inspiring the aspects of the story if that makes sense.
    Other than that I usually have a pic of the current hero and heroine on my desktop that I can access quickly if I need to. I know a lot of authors have a pinterest page but oi! I dont need any more forms of procrastination!

  2. Wow, Louisa, that looks like fun. I've never tried collaging - could be that's because there are only fishing magazines around here! But at the moment I'm trying to plot a romantic suspense and any ideas are good from where I'm sitting at the moment. I'll go check out those fishermen.

  3. Hi Amy! I understand what you mean about the collage keeping the story straight in your head- yes, you kind of have a visual road map (ok, all maps are visual- you know what I mean!) of the story.

    How do you go about choosing your heroes? I find I'm searching things like 'top ten bachelors' but they're not always beautiful enough to inspire me! (Rich, yes, handsome, not so much :-))

  4. Hi Sue! It was a lot of fun! I started out with a few tatty copies of my sons' NZ Rugby (interesting to look at, not that good to read!!)...then I sent a quick email round to my local friends asking if they had any magazines lying around that they didn't want. Plus there's always the local op shops who have them going very cheap. Thought I might ask my hairdresser next time I'm in there too! I guess the thing is to have a variation of things so inspiration will come from a few different sources.

  5. Louisa, that looks like fun, and really, anything that helps you get to know your characters has to be working - surely!

    How interesting that this has come up today. I haven't been collaging, but I've been browsing through some books my son brought home from the library for me - big format photographic books which have just this morning helped me nail the setting of the current scene in my book. The pictures and text were brilliant in helping me visualise my own scene - slightly different from the photos but close enough to be realistic. Hope the collage helps the rest of the book.

  6. Google images usually, Louisa :-)

    I guess I start with a general idea in mind. Eg - my hero is a ranga. So then I google famous red-heads. I usually google actors, sportsmen, models.
    Just discoverd Sean Patrick Davey yesterday. Oh my! Is he ever going in a book!
    But often its a case of knowing him when you see him - which is why you can waste hours looking :-) I have been searching for weeks now for an image of a hero that I'm doing later in the year. All I know is I want him to have dark hair and that he's a bit of a workahloic businessman. But none of the images I've looked at so far are working for me....
    Maybe I need to go through some old magazines at work tonight!

  7. Hi Annie! Glad the hard-copy visual stimuli helped you out-sometimes we just need to step away from the computer, eh?

  8. Amy! OMG- SPD and he has an Irish accent! Heaven! Is there anything more perfect?

    As for your current search for a hero- maybe you could search through some rugby magazines? Or Sue could lend you her fisherman ones!! LOL!!!

  9. Hi Louisa - I haven't collaged or scrapbooked before, but I can see the appeal. Might have to start. I generally have a good idea in my mind of what my hero and heroine look like. Sometimes I go through magazines for inspiration and have pic up above my desk, but they do live quite vividly without a pic.

  10. Snap, Louisa! I've been collaging my latest story too. It's not something I normally do (I've only ever done it for one other book) and I do that whole whingy whiney teenage "this is nonsense" thing.'s made my brain fire in all sorts of directions.

    I've created a playlist too, and that's helped me find the "tone" I want for the story. Listening to the playlist whilst collaging can be very useful. :-)

  11. Hi Jennifer! It's great if you can 'see' your characters already, isn' it? Although, when I think about it, once I start writing the story the characters generally become their own person- a bit of George, a bit of Ryan, and Johnny...etc, I guess the pictures are just a jumping off point.

  12. Michelle, a playlist sounds like fun. Mind you, I have to write in total silence- but having a tone for the story might work. I'll give it a try! I did print out the lyrics to Ed Sheeran's 'Kiss me' song because I love the things he says in that.

    Shame we don't live closer and we could have a collaging afternoon!

  13. Louisa, I'm a big fan of collaging and playlists. My big tip with collaging is not to use magazines - I find pictures on the internet, then save them in a document and take them to Officeworks and print them out in colour. That way I get the exact expressions / clothes / pose / setting I want.

    I'm also a scrapbooking fan - heaps of fun!

  14. Too much fun, Louisa! I have a "collage" for my current story as my screen save at the moment... but I've just read Rachel's method of taking it to Officeworks for a lovely colour print... guess where I'm going in the next week or two!