A Model for a Novel

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I’m halfway (50 K) through my novel. Early on I realized the setting—a girls’ summer camp/late spring—was becoming complicated. There were cabins for girls, cabins for counselors, a large meeting hall with a cafeteria, an outdoor stage, trees, gazebos, a parking lot…hedgerows, a house for the groundskeeper—sidewalks. I was losing control. I decided to sketch a map of the place.

The above map worked up to a point, but things started moving about…a life of their own, as it were. Then I started making notes on the map! As the novel progressed the map became more and more important and more and more cluttered. It became clear to me that I needed to move things to a HIGHER LEVEL.

I bought a large white board, a pack of construction paper, glue sticks, balsa wood, dowels, all kinds of stuff. I became a Hobby Lobby freak. At first, I used pieces of cut-out construction paper of various colors, to identify buildings as well as to mark their location and black strips to mark roads and sidewalks, then I cut out circles for trees. I kept it all loose in order to move things about as deemed necessary. Much “deeming” later, I went 3D. OMG!

silverbridge

Silverbridge Summer Camp for Girls

            The cabins were easy to construct—I used pine and miter saw. Painting them was time consuming. The gazebos were the toughest items to construct. I used my scroll saw for the cut-outs. After two or three tries, I had something I liked. I was especially proud of the cupolas. The whole model isn’t built to scale…but things are—more or less—depicted in a relative manner, so it’s not too out of whack. For instance, cars are nothing more than tiny blocks of wood painted various colors. No need to get too realistic.

Materials breakdown:

  • Roads and sidewalks – Corkboard with adhesive backing.
  • Cars – small painted blocks of wood.
  • Trees – dowels and Styrofoam.
  • The grass in the central area – green construction paper.
  • Green cabins for counselors – painted pine.
  • Yellow cabins for girls – painted pine. Four girls to a cabin.
  • Gazebos – painted pine with a balsa wood cupula.
  • Rose bushes – fluff balls. Got them at Hobby Lobby.
  • Green border hedge – square dowels.
  • Main building (red and black) painted pine. Tiny letters from Hobby Lobby.
  • Groundkeeper’s house—painted pine.
  • Boulder next to the flag—a rock I picked up while walking Cody, our black lab.
  • Windows and doors of buildings are construction paper cut-outs and glued on.

Now you may wonder how the writing was going during all of this? Constructing this model while writing its narrative provided an interesting source of depth. On several occasions, each caused revision to the other. I was amazed to literally see the landscape in a 3D aspect as opposed to the imagined. One or two scenes improved because I had a clearer vision of the physical space involved. I could see what my characters see from any vantage point. I used a small clip light to get an idea of the effect of morning sun and shadows. I could turn the whole shebang around and get an evening view…which I did. In short, I’m having a great time with this. Next project: a model of my protagonist’s cabin…why not?

This is the first time I’ve ever done this sort of thing, and it wasn’t planned. So! What are your thoughts? Suggestions? Have you done this sort of thing? Did your model or map, or drawing help you with your novel?  How so?

39 thoughts on “A Model for a Novel

  1. ladieswholunchreviews

    I am so fascinated with this. I’ve decided to get serious about expanding some of my shorter stories, hoping one will reach novel length. I’ve never even planned before, but I’m setting up outlines and things. I might just try at least the map idea and some rough sketches cause working w/o a an is not working for me. Your idea sounds fabulous!

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    1. Paul Post author

      Whoa! thank you so much! 🙂 I have to say, it really made a difference. It connected me to the writing in a more personal manner. I got closer to the characters and their world, so to speak.

      Thanks again for reading and positive response.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. spearfruit

    The 3D model is amazing and I think an excellent idea for assisting you through your writing process. I am very impressed as to the detail you put into this Paul, very impressed.

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    1. Paul Post author

      Thank you! It did work…much better than I thought…! You know I had to draw a line on how far I wanted the detail to go…for instance I had thought about telephone poles and lines and all that b.s. but then they don’t play any role in the. narrative so I said the hell with that. :-). The big thing was the placement of buildings and such. When characters leave a building, what do they see? That aspect becomes important in creating a believable space.

      Thanks again Spear, it’s always so good to hear from you. It’s also good to hear you’re on the mend! ha!

      Liked by 2 people

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      1. spearfruit

        I can understand about wanting more detail with the telephone poles, etc. The detail you have now is great, and I understand what you are doing with the model to help with the narrative. Happy Sunday my friend! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Sha'Tara

    On the humourous side… are you writing a pop-up book? (As in “Throw Momma from the Train”?) That’s quite the effort. I can imagine how the mind would be working overtime with possibilities as you put those 3-D figures up.

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  4. jrose88

    That is so cool. I’ve done world building maps for my fantasy novel but nothing this detailed or intricate – if I wanted to build a model of one of the main characters’ hometown, I’d need a lot of small bamboo sticks and, probably, a degree in architecture. Heh, I think I’ll stick to drawings. But your model is awesome, I am kind of jealous.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Paul Post author

      This was a unique situation in that the action of the novel takes place in a contained area. I had no idea to do something like this until at one scene two characters were in a gazebo when they suddenly overhear two other characters talking. I realized I had no idea where the the other two had come from or where in the hell they were going. At that point I decided to draw a map then it escalated… gaaa.

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

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  5. Tina Williams

    I’m impressed with your dedication and attention to detail. The most I’ve done is vague drawings, like the one you started with. With me, I’m afraid if I go any further, the writing itself will get derailed by my absorption in the minutiae. But it sounds like you’re on top of it, Paul!

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Paul Post author

      Thank you! Tina. But I have to say, your fears are well-founded. There were moments when I began to wonder if I wasn’t getting too much into the model. I did in fact have to check myself on more than one occasion! 🙂 But in the long run it has proven to be helpful.

      Liked by 1 person

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  6. Karina Pinella

    it’s a great exercise to do since it allows you to think about our story. It’s similar to doing something else while ideas about your novel percolate in your brain. In your case, your activity is related to your novel, making it even more powerful. Taking photos of what you have in mind can also be a help in recalling how green or blue the dress she’s wearing, as an example.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Paul Post author

      You are so right. I had thought about constructing a model of my protagonist’s cabin because it’s an important and protective place for her, but it’s too much and I’ve found tons of pics on google that give me enough info on what such a cabin could look like.

      And I definitely agree that when it comes to dress style for women, photos are a must. I think partly because they are in the moment–now!

      I follow several fashion blogs to get a good idea of clothes women wear. It’s interesting though, I get as much info from comments as I do the blog itself. Not to mention my two sisters who are damn good at a sewing machine! 🙂

      Thanks Karina for reading. Your comments are always important to me.

      Liked by 1 person

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  7. Deb

    I think it’s amazing and an excellent idea!! I love it! When you’re all done with the novel and in no longer need of this inspiration, you should bring it to the town and suggest they build this campsite. It’s fabulous, well done Paul. I love the contribution of the rock, that must have been Cody’s idea. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. Deborah Lee Luskin

    I confess that the more intricate the details, the more anxious I became about you giving up writing for model building. I was relieved when you addressed that possibility, and I admit I was surprised that what could have become a major distraction was really a tremendous boost to the narrative. This is a great example of creativity begetting creativity. Well done!

    Liked by 3 people

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  9. Mary Job

    This is beyond awesome, never thought to visualize like this. I do write down and sometimes I wish I had a big board to draw a model of my life on it. I have thought about writing a novel but never began the process, I should later in life and I will be sure to follow your methods, it’s fascinating, bringing to life a work of art makes it real, not that it wasn’t real before but realer(if there’s any word like that which I doubt)

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Paul Post author

      It is a great help to have this model. As I write I can now visualize my characters placement in a 3D setting. It works!

      Thank you Mary for the kind words and go on and start the novel now! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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  10. Sheryl

    Love this post. I use lego to build sets or models for what I’m writing. It does help with spacial perspective. Good job by the way it shows your dedication to your craft.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Paul Post author

      Thank you so much. I thought about legos to build a model cabin just to get a good visual, but the model took up a bit of time. It does help….a lot. Thanks again for reading and great support.

      Liked by 1 person

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    1. Paul Post author

      Well thank you Moushmi! What a dear you are. 🙂 I have to say though, the model was fun. It’s not something I’ll ever do again, but this particular novel I’m working on simply fit the bill. It’s an isolated Girl’s camp, Red cabins are for counselors and Yellow cabins are for the girls. When I started writing I simply got lost, so I had to draw a diagram and that when to a 2D model and that progressed to a 3D model…OMG! But. it’s done and the good news is that you are exactly right, it is amazingly helpful.

      Again thank you so much for your wonderful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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