Getting In the Mood

Candlelight and soft music? I don’t think so! Then again, if I were writing in the Romance genre perhaps those are exactly the props I’d use to get into a scene-writing mood.

When it comes to finding story ideas we all have our distinctive sources. For me, a single image repeatedly appears in my mind, usually of a person in a particular setting. There is nothing else. No action. No plot. I begin to wonder who this person is, what’s happening and why. As the character’s state of mind is revealed the beginning of a story emerges and I write the first scene.

That’s how it starts. From that point I either keep writing ‘from the seat of my pants’, without knowing where the story will go, or I do a bit of basic planning, jotting down several key ideas that will guide me in a specific direction.

Sometimes before I even start writing I’ve seen and explored that mental image so many times the character has become familiar. Other times I get to know the person as the story develops. In either case my imagination begins creating a setting complete with meaningful props. That’s when I dig out my old magazines and catalogues, grab scissors and glue, and begin making a story collage.

My collages always begin with a picture that resembles my mental image of the main character. Beyond that it’s a random process during which I collect a hodgepodge of clippings. It’s an ongoing process throughout the writing of the first draft. I stick the clippings onto card, adding others as the story moves ahead. Usually I end up with anywhere from two to four cards which I slip into plastic sleeves and clip into my research binder.

During a current critique of my w.i.p. I was reminded that leaving cards in the binder doesn’t serve me very well unless it’s close at hand for frequent reference. Today I have the collage cards out to help me get back into the mood to improve a tiny slice of romance writing. There is no candlelight and soft music, just the picture of an ornate gold Celtic cross.

Do you use props to help get into a specific mood for writing a scene? What are they?

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17 thoughts on “Getting In the Mood

  1. Shari says:

    I didn’t know you did story collages? Very cool idea.

    I often have pictures — characters, often, but this time ’round I just have one pic of setting (northern lights over snowy wilderness — it’s my desktop photo). During revisions, I always have a playlist of tunes that suit the tone I’m going for, and also songs that fit particular key scenes.

    • It got the idea back when I was tinkering with our family history and looking through photos to include with it. The photos inspired additional memories. I did a collage for ‘Connections’ and ‘Refuge’, and now am collecting the bits and pieces for ‘Showdown’. I don’t too often have music playing while I’m writing but a playlist of just the right tunes would be a great mood-setter. Good idea!

  2. A story collage, neat! It’s nothing I’ve thought to use before.

    I think it would detract from the story for me, though. I just have to feel it.

    • Sometimes I don’t need anything but other times I need all the help I can dredge up. 😉 Different writers have different systems for getting into their stories. For instance, I hadn’t thought of theme-specific music as Shari mentions. It’s wonderful if you can just will yourself into feeling the right emotions.

  3. Since I write short stories, I’ve never used collages–my first book totals 90 stories! But I think it’s a great tool. I like the idea of having a visual to refer to.

    • I can’t imagine creating 90 collages! One of the things that was suggested to me was having the character’s picture taped to the computer to help me visualize him speaking. It would help get the voice right instead of intruding my own voice as I do at times.

  4. Dave Ebright says:

    The collage idea is pretty cool. Your post made me realize that I depend heavily on Deb’s photos of places & people when developing characters & storyline. They’re not pasted on my computer or on a storyboard – but I pull them up from the files regularly to refresh my memory. I DO use a dry erase board sometimes when I’m working out timeline – but that’s in the garage. No way she’s lettin’ me put that on a wall in the house!

    • The dry erase board would be very handy. But not allowed in the house??? C’mon, Deb, ya gotta make the occasional sacrifice in support of this writing habit of Dave’s! 😉

  5. christicorbett says:

    Carol,
    I write historicals so when I need inspiration for what my characters look like I go to an antique store and browse through the collections of photos of people.

    I have about seven such photos right now for my WIP in a pile right next to my desk.

    Also, a silver jewel case is very significant to my storyline. I found one I liked, complete with red velvet interior, and bought it. It resides right next to my desk. And, you can see it in the opening shots of my book trailer 🙂

    When I’m writing, I often dress in “period pieces”…like a bonnet, a cowboy hat, or a floor-length full skirt. Doing this gives me a sense of what it must have been like for the character to wear such clothes.

    Christi Corbett
    http://christicorbett.wordpress.com
    (Click on the above link to see the book trailer which is loaded with actual props I use during writing)

  6. Laura Best says:

    I wouldn’t have thought of a collage.

    Certain music sometimes puts me in the mood to write and oddly enough the weather— snow, a warm summer breeze, the crisp autumn air.

    Guess everyone has different ideas.

    • What? No springtime weather inspiration? 😉 Or maybe that’s the season we’re inspired to clean away the cobwebs and get our houses in order so our minds are cleared of distractions???

      I think you’re right that different things work for different people.

      • Laura Best says:

        Ooops! I forgot poor little spring and the maritime black flies and wood ticks. Certain spring days are pretty inspiring. I love it when the leaves are just beginning to pop out!!

  7. Definitely candles and music… something that reminds me of nature.

  8. Erica Vetsch says:

    I have scented candles, diet coke, and my chapter-by-chapter synopsis close at hand when I write at home. When I go out of the house to write, I love to visit Caribou Coffee, where it’s Black Thai Lattes and funky music I can usually tune out. 🙂

    The storyboard cards are a fun idea!

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