I first heard about using collage as
part of the novel-writing process from one of my favourite writers, Jennifer Crusie. The
idea, very like the one behind making a soundtrack for your book, is
to access your subconscious (where the stories live) in a different
way to writing.
As soon as you start to think about a new project, look out for images, patterns and even objects that belong in the world you're creating. To start with, you can just collect things so that when you're ready to begin your collage, you've got some material.
Looking at images and choosing ones
that feel like your book, or things that directly represent elements and characters,
can be a surprising exercise. I'm amazed when images
I've chosen without knowing why, end up as vital later in the book, and when the story begins to coalesce through
the act of cutting out images and sticking them down.
Another way in which paper collage
works for me is in the placing of the images. As I stick things
down, trying to work by instinct as far as possible, the
juxtaposition of images suggests plot ideas, themes and
relationships. Like freewriting, it's a way of
getting to the story and making it as tangible as possible.
Even if you think you're not remotely
artistically-inclined and you prefer to stay several steps away
from any conversation involving the word subconscious, I'd still
recommend giving this a go. If nothing else, it's a great excuse for some retail therapy; you can hit your local craft store and buy lots of pretty papers, stamps and stickers, all in the name of work!
You can make a simple collage with cardboard from a cereal box, magazine cuttings and some PVA, of course, but if you're going to glue heavier objects or build up lots of layers, I recommend using a solid base. I usually use foam core board but have also used a shallow wooden box frame to good effect.
If paper and glue are not your thing,
then how about making a digital collage instead? You could use a
simple graphics program, collage software, or even
Pinterest. Spend a couple of hours browsing and collecting images that feel like your book and pin them to your own
'book board'. It's easy, free and might spark your imagination.
The wonderful book collages of Jenny
Crusie are collected here.