Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Theory on Thursday with Rachel Bailey

Today I'm ecstatic to have my RWAus twin on my blog - a MASSIVE welcome to Desire author, Rachel Bailey. We're twins because people actually mistake us for the same person - we often get each other's emails, more often Rachel gets mine cos she's far more famous than I am - and sometimes people who have known us for years, discover we're actually two different people. Seriously... it happens that much that we're thinking of getting t-shirts printed for conferences. Something along the lines of ''If you've read Rachel Johns, you'll LOVE Rachel Bailey'' and vice versa. Aside from our first names being the same, my ''real'' name is VERY similar to Bailey and well... you get the idea.

Rachel's chatting today about something I LOVE the idea of but have never actually managed to embrace properly so I'm hoping for some tips. 

Over to you Rach...

Inviting your right brain out to play

Popular psychology has a theory that our left brains are the place where most logical thinking happens, where we do our arithmetic, store the grammar rules and generally be rational. The theory goes on to say that our right brains are where our creativity resides, our imagination and intuition, and where we synthesise things.

You may already have a good relationship with your right brain, but my left brain usually jumps in before my right brain gets a chance to say much. So when I’m plotting a story, I have a couple of techniques I use to coax my right brain into playing with us.

One of those is collage.

You’ve probably read about collages and writing before – there are some great articles on the web, such as this one by Jennifer Crusie, so my post today is more about how collages work for me.

Sometimes when I’m rushing to plot a book, I consider skipping this step, but things always go easier for me later with the story when I’ve taken the time.

I generally start by flipping through magazines. There’s a stack in my office cupboard kept for just this purpose. I’m looking for the obvious: someone who might look like my hero or heroine (I also browse the internet for these) and settings that might occur in the book. But I’m also looking for anything that may *feel* right. It might be a bottle of red wine, or a posy of wildflowers, or a word, or a blue background. After a while the random images start to form a pattern. Or not. But, put with the things my left brain chooses, they always add up to an overview of the feeling of the story.

Then I’ll go to a craft store / craft section of a department store and scour for anything that feels right on their shelves. For a future book I’m planning I bought silver and purple felt stick on butterflies. They’re so pretty, and although I don’t think there are any butterflies in the story (or maybe there will be?) it’s probably going to be a metaphor for my heroine’s journey. Sometimes an image or an object I find will start my brain thinking about a whole new thread to the story – those moments are gold.

The background to the collage is important to me too. For Million-Dollar Amnesia Scandal, I stuck pieces of red and brown paper in a chequered pattern before adding on the pictures on top – the colours felt right. For What Happens in Charleston… I used thick black cardboard and sprayed it with gold hairspray to give it a glitter effect. (Probably my favourite collage background so far!)

The act of creating the collage is really useful to me in getting the plot together in my head and finding threads and aspects to the story I otherwise may have missed. But that’s only one purpose.

After I’ve finished a collage, I hang it above my computer while I write the book and it becomes an ongoing inspiration. When I first sit down in the mornings, I look up at the collage and fall into the story again – especially important if I’ve just been working on edits for another story and need to ‘feel’ this one again.

Also, when I have those moments where I wonder about what comes next, instead of gazing out the window (which would be sure to distract me), I gaze at the collage. Looking at the picture I’ve chosen for him pasted beside the picture of the heroine surrounded by all the colours and metaphors for their journey, I can almost hear them talking (or not talking as the case may be) and I know where the story needs to go. It’s like the collage becomes my muse.

Everyone’s brain works differently, so using collages may not help you at all – it might just waste your time – but it might be worth a try in case it does add something to your plotting experience!

So tell me, have you ever used a collage when writing? Was it useful or just a waste of time? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

(By the way, I haven’t posted any photos of my collages here because I’m sure they’d have images that are copyright to the photographer and I need to respect that.)

WOW Rachel, some of those collages sound AMAZING!!! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your collaging process with us Rachel. Do be sure to share your collage-ing experiences as Rachel said :)

Rachel's latest book is WHAT HAPPENS IN CHARLESTON (don't ya just love that title?)
Here's the blurb:
Money has always given Matthew Kincaid whatever he wanted. Yet now his son needs something even his millions can't buy. The widower's sole recourse is the surrogate who gave birth to his child - for she is also the boy's true biological mother.
Susannah Parrish needs no prodding to offer her assistance - a child's life is at stake. But to their mutual surprise, the minute she's back in Charleston and residing in Matthew's home, passion consumes them. Is this a relationship doomed by deception? Or is it the one chance at a love they both secretly crave?

You can find Rachel at her website, on Twitter and on Facebook (go ahead, like her. You know you want to :)). 


Mel Teshco said...

Hi Rach and Rach!!!! *g*

And oh I want to make a collage again now - Miss Four would LOVE it!!!
I made one for Shadow Hunter (unpubbed) and one image I found in a magazine started a whole new scene (an old abandoned railway carriage).
Rachel I love the way your mind works =))

Anonymous said...

I've done this before, but I've never considered going to a craft store. These are great tips. Thanks!!!

Rachel Bailey said...

Mel, I can see you and Miss 4 sitting down to work on your collages together - what fun!

Rachel Bailey said...

Aimee, I love the craft stores - especially the scrapbooking supplies. They usually have fun stuff with texture and 3D effects but are still made to stick on a flat surface. Have fun!

Rachel Bailey said...

Rach, I love your intro about people confusing us. Our private email addresses don't help the situation, but my favourite are the ones you mentioned where people we've known for a few years -- and one of us has even met in person -- don't realise we're two different people! But at least you and I know each other well enough to just pass the emails along. :)

Scarlet Wilson said...

Rachel I have absolute admiration for you. I would love to see some pictures of those! I'm not artistic at all and wouldn't know where to start. I've printed out a picture of David Gandy for my latest hero inspiration and it's sit in a polypocket - does that count???

Joanne Dannon said...

Wow - I looove the sound of your collages. I love how you did the backgrounds for your collages which kept the inspiration going!

Thanks for the post - really interesting!!

Rachel Bailey said...

Scarlet, send me an email at rachel (at) rachelbailey (dot) com at the end of the post, I've probably used copyrighted photos, so it's not fair to the photographers if I publish the collages on the web, but I'm happy to email you a couple of snapshots. :)

David Gandy? Don't know him, which is very exciting! I love finding potential new heroes. Thanks!

Rachel Bailey said...

Argh! A sentence seems to have disappeared from the reply to Scarlett. I'm not sure how I deleted it while typing, lol.

It should have said: "Scarlet, send me an email at rachel (at) rachelbailey (dot) com and I'll send you some photos. As I said at the end of the post, etc"

Rachel Bailey said...

Hi Joanne! The background is really important to me because it sets the tone. My mother is an artist (and ex-high school art teacher), so we were discussing the exact shade of a future collage's background yesterday. Kinda cobalt blue with a touch more purple. Fun!

M.J. said...

I collage too, but I do mine electronically using Curio. Definitely helps me get the feel for the book and figure it out more and more as I go along

Rachel Bailey said...

MJ, I haven't tried doing it electronically - I think the hands-on aspect helps me, as well as having a great big final product on the wall behind my computer. But you've piqued my interest, so am off to explore Curio...

Cathryn Hein said...

Thanks so much for this post, Rachel. Like Rach I'm fascinated by the collage process but it's not something I've ever done. Although, perhaps I kind of do it because all through my book "bible", where I make notes about the characters and plot and keep calendars and maps, are pictures. Lots of them.

I think this is something I might try in future books. It'd certainly save me flipping backwards and forwards through all those pages of scribble!

All the best with What Happens in Charleston... Fantastic title!

Rachel Bailey said...

Cathryn, very cool that you have a book bible - very easy to translate parts of it to a collage for easy reference if you wanted. I've included maps, eg, I had a map of South Carolina on my What Happens in Charleston... collage.

Also, I added a Wordle pic of the first three chapters of Return of the Secret Heir to its collage. It looked great because the biggest words were JT (hero), Pia (heroine), baby and other relevant words. Gave me a snapshot, almost like a log line.

Would love to hear how you go if you decide to merge your bible with a collage!

Jenn J McLeod said...

I think butterflies are wonderful analogies. I have one in my first novel. My inspiration, however, comes from living a kilometer (as the butterfly flies) for Coffs Harbour Butterfly House. An up close and personal butterfly exp. Oh and Rach x 2, I know I have so totally got your emails mixed up in the past. One too many Rachjohns!!!! So I'm not really ditzy :)

Coleen Kwan said...

What a great idea. I'm too lazy to do an actual collage - usually I just paste images into a Word document.

Rachel Bailey said...

Jenn, I'm very green about you living so close to the Butterfly House! I drove through Coffs once, years ago, and we couldn't visit the BH for some reason. Must repeat the trip!

Don't worry about mixing up the Rachels - as the other Rach said, we're thinking of getting T-Shirts. My fave option: I'm the Other Rach. :)

Rachel Bailey said...

Colleen, nothing wrong with a pretty Word doc as a collage! I'm a big believer in doing whatever works for you. :) Thanks for dropping by!

Suzanne Brandyn said...

lol I don't think I have sent an email to the wrong Rachel. Hmm... You have me thinking now. And yes, you are two different people. Oh, in a nice way. :)

I couldn explain but I'd be here for a month. lol..

Love the premise of your story Rach B. A child between two people is a strong tug bringing unsual circumstances, some good and some not so good. :)

Rachel Bailey said...

Suz, I don't remember you sending an email to the wrong one of us, so you're probably safe.

You know, Rach and I having the same colouring probably doesn't help either!

Rachael Johns said...

So sorry I haven't popped in until now. It's been a HELLISH kid week so THANK GOD it's the weekend. I've just cracked open a Diet Coke and am trying to catch up!

Thanks for all your comments. MAybe we should all go away and do a collage for the next book.

Rachel - if you're still around, I have a question! Do you KEEP your collages once you're done with the book?

Kerri Williams said...

You sure are one busy lady.
Thank you Rach and Rach for some great tips.

Rachel Bailey said...

Hi Rach! Thanks for inviting me along. :) Yep, I keep all my collages - I have some hanging on my walls and some in the cupboard. They help keep me in the "writing frame of mind" when I got into my writing room.

Hope this week is a better one for you!

Rachel Bailey said...

Hi Kerri! Thanks for dropping by - it's been fun guest blogging here. :)