Embodying Character Series: Creating with Maud

This summer has been a process of rediscovery for me as I tried to dive back into writing after traveling and research for a few months. As readers of this blog know, for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been talking with artists and actors about embodying character. This was so inspiring that it helped me think about new ways of stepping into my character’s 19th century button boots.

L.M. Montgomery had started scrapbooking in her late teens. Two of the scrapbooks, known as the Red and the Blue, have been lovingly compiled by Elizabeth Rollins Epperly’s Imagining Anne, which has been helpful in making me understand Montgomery’s aesthetic, and the images and fashion of Victorian Canada.

Here are a few pages that can be found on the LMM. Confederation Centre website:

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I then remembered that have always enjoyed doing kind of what she did, putting various images and poems together to create a theme or image.

And then I thought that one could do a vision board of sorts, but for one’s character. This isn’t an original thought but it was certainly something I hadn’t considered for a long time.

The first time that I did something like this, I was in the middle of my Masters Thesis on Joan of Arc. I had constructed an archetype of her which I called, “Spiritual Woman Warrior” and I was converging a lot of different ideas together from popular Western culture, Romantic Poetry, and Medieval literature. The result current hangs in my hallway:

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(Yes, I was definitely Wonder Woman inspired…)

What happened can only be described as following the creative direction of my character.  As the journal that I was writing much of my rough draft in was almost done and I was going to need a new one.

IMG_0840I have always loved art stores because I like to imagine that I could actually do any of that stuff that artists do, I went into Above Ground  in Toronto’s Junction area to see what journals they had. While talking to one of the lovely people that work there I decided to purchase a sketch book and some colourful markers (to help with my revision) and create something of my own. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this but I was trusting in the process.

Now I need to retrace my steps a little and mention that over the past few months I have also been rediscovering Toronto as well. After months of working full time and writing full time I needed to do a bit of exploring in the hopes of refilling my creative well.

One of these places is in Toronto’s Queen West area called, The Paper Place, which specializes in paper design. I have been walking through that store pondering what I could possibly do with such gorgeous paper, but never quite coming up with an idea.  I kept thinking that Maud would have LOVED this shop, touching the special fabrics, and marvelling at the various colour dyes. This is when I remembered this beautiful shop and decided to see what they might have in Maud’s aesthetic that I could use for my journal.

The morning of one of my creative days with my friend Caroline (who is the genius artist behind Garnet & Ashes) I stopped off at The Paper Place and went shopping for paper. I asked one of the staff to help me find what I could only describe as “Victorian prints.” He led me to some binders which got my imagination going.

And then the only way that I can describe what happened next is that I walked around the shop as Maud, allowing her to tell me what papers she would like. This was our bounty:

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And so I began, cutting and pasting, trying different patterns and forms. It had been a very long time since I allowed myself into this very natural creative space. There were things that I thought might work and didn’t, things I didn’t even realize would work and did. I worked with my character to see what she wanted. Normally this is done with words. That day it was done with scissors, paper, and glue.

IMG_0852Caroline lent me some glue and the use of her brushes so that I could paint the glue, which somehow made me feel like I was tapping into that period more. And then we put some glaze on top to keep the paper from coming off.

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Of course things shift a little bit once it all came together. This was the final result:

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And now I have two books to write in that feel quite natural for my character. The timing was perfect, too, as soon after completing this project I finished the original journal, which allowed me to just keep on writing. (Although I have to admit that I find it so beautiful I almost didn’t want to…but I did.)

IMG_0865I know that author, Lyn Miller-Lachman, (who has appeared on this blog before) uses LEGO pieces to build out her scene and get into her novels. I’m curious as to what you might do and what you think of this idea of vision boarding your character.

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About Melanie J. Fishbane

MAUD, my YA novel based on the teen life of author L.M. Montgomery will be published by Penguin Random House on April 25, 2017. I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Here I talk about my writing process, things I love, and creative people who inspire me.
This entry was posted in Anne of Green Gables, Authors, Embodying Character Series, Inspiration, L.M. Montgomery, Talented Friends, Writing, Writing Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Embodying Character Series: Creating with Maud

  1. sandranickel says:

    I love this. I love all of it. So inspirational!

  2. Sarah Emsley says:

    What a great idea, Melanie. I hope you continue to find the journal inspiring. I’ve been rereading Imagining Anne and I’m writing a blog post about the scrapbooks, so I’ll be sure to include a link to your post.

  3. Right now it is just writing. Some character sketches and scenes that I’m working through.

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