Pictures paint a thousand words
When I was re-drafting my YA novel Dark Ride, I spent a very enjoyable day wandering round a rundown seaside town on the south coast. It turned out to be freakily similar to the fictional one in my book, despite the fact that I'd never been there before. Anyway, I took a ton of photos that day and when I got back, I plastered them all over a gigantic cork board in my study, which I propped up behind my desk. I also put tickets and postcards on it... anything that helped evoke a sense of that place.
I called it my ‘story board’ and was very pleased with it indeed. It really helped me at times when I felt I was losing my way with the plot. I looked at the images and could almost hear seagulls squawking and feel salty wind on my face.
I’m writing something completely different now, a dystopian novel set in the near future so filling my story board was much more of a challenge. I knew I wanted old Victorian warehouses and pictures of urban decay and for the former, I took a day trip to the much-loved Northern town where I went to university a zillion years ago.
Well, I had a rubbish day. I was trying to go on a walk along the canal that was advertised as showing the city’s industrial heritage in all its glory. It turned out to have large sections that were closed off and I ended up wandering round a ring road studded with B&Qs and builders merchants before being taken past a massage parlour to rejoin the route. At this point I realised it was completely isolated and after 20 years of living in London, my instincts told me this lonely tow path walk was not for me.
In the end, I found some good images much closer to home, in Shoreditch.
I’ve re-made my board, which is now propped in front of me as I write. I’m not sure it has quite the same punch as the original but feel confident it’s going to help all the same.
Having spent further time faffing about getting the exact right notebook, it’s beginning to dawn on me that the time has come to stop procrastinating AND DO SOME BLOODY WRITING!
But before I do, I’m really interested to know what practical things other writers do to get their creative juices flowing. Do you use pictures, like me? Maybe you even draw pictures?
Do you take a walk around locations that may appear in the book? And what about music? I had a playlist on my iPod that also helped me when inspiration was running low.
On the other hand, maybe you just allow your imagination to take flight without the need for props.
However you do it, I’d love to know...