How to Use Character Boards When Writing Your Novel

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I love a good collage. There is something about taking found objects and arranging them in new ways to give them new meaning that has always sparked my creativity. I’ve been making collages for as long as I can remember, and in the last few years I’ve gotten on the vision board bandwagon, which REALLY taps into my desire to rip pictures out of magazines and tape or glue them to poster board.

I’ve also used collage to some success in television development. I’ve worked on projects where I was tasked with creating boards to either evoke the mood of a show in development or to help visualize and capture the essence of the main characters in a new show. In a collaborative effort such as working on a TV show, these boards are then used by the artists who are taking these ideas and turning them into something concrete.

When I was working on the second draft of my novel, INSIDE CHANCE, I knew I wanted to go deeper with the characters. I wanted to flesh them out more, understand their back story and motivation more, I wanted to get inside their heads and inside their worlds more. So I figured, if I’ve used collage to create visions for my life, and I’ve used collage to help develop characters for TV shows, why couldn’t I do the same for my novel?

I spent a couple of pleasant hours diving through stacks of magazines at local thrift stores, and scored some truly unique titles and even found some from the 80s, which is when my novel is set. Then I set aside an afternoon and looked through them all, pulling whatever sparked my interest or spoke to me in some way about the character, even if it didn’t make logical sense. Here are three of boards I made:

Joni Chance

Character boards for Joni Chance
Character board for Joni Chance

Cash

Character board for Cash
Character board for Cash

The Bearded Man

Character board for the bearded man
Character board for the bearded man

I hung them over my desk in my workspace, and whenever I was writing, I took some time to look them over. I can tell you that there are things on these boards that made it into the novel – details I would have never included that I took directly from these images, which I think give each character more dimension, more color and more humanity.

If you’re feeling stuck or simply want another way of developing your characters, your setting or your story, why not give collage boards a try? Anyone out there ever done this before when working on a novel? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

2 thoughts on “How to Use Character Boards When Writing Your Novel”

  1. Neat idea – very similar to the way the self help industry uses vision boards – good to see it moving outside that area!

    This kind of technique really helps bring things to life. There’s nothing like looking a character in the face to be able to decide what they’d be saying or doing.

    1. Right? I find it such a helpful way to explore those dark corners of my mind, where intuition helps to lead you down an even more interesting and rich path. Letting intuition help you find the images, and then letting those images guide where some of the writing goes. It was really helpful, and I’ll definitely do it again.

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