Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Model by Any Other Name

by special guest Jean Flowers.

Making miniatures (models of life) and writing fiction (also models of life) have a lot in common.

On my workbench is a room box, newly crafted, waiting to be furnished. On my computer is my latest novel, newly crafted, waiting to be furnished.

Adding a descriptive passage to emphasize a point in a scene is like dropping that tiny string of pearls onto m'lady's dresser in the Victorian dollhouse mansion. Cutting a paragraph from a chapter in a novel translates into removing a too-large scatter rug that overpowers the rest of the kitchen furnishings in a modern dollhouse.

I change a verb for a more powerful statement; I change the draperies in the dollhouse dining room for the same reason.

For a miniature scene or room box, after I choose the colors and assemble the pieces, I leave it on my workbench for a while, living with it, looking at it from different angles over the course of a week or so, to be sure all the elements fit together nicely. Only when a particular design has stood the test of time, do I glue all the parts in place.

I do the same for my novels, leaving each chapter or day's work to sit for a while. When I come back later, I see the flaws. I notice phrases or sentences or plot elements that don't work well together, and make the changes. Only then do I consider it "finished" and metaphorically glue it in place.

I have the most fun when I can combine my two favorite crafts, making miniature scenes and writing mystery novels. At writing conferences and meetings I donate miniature scenes for charity auctions, often including miniature replicas of books that are featured on the panels.

In each case—making a miniature scene or writing a novel—I'm creating a model of reality, a fictional world where things can be easier and often make more sense than in the life-size world.

Both endeavors also involve cheating!

When I put a roof on a dollhouse I don't have to worry about the materials really being weatherproof. Dollhouse admirers assume all will be well if it rains. When I move my characters about in a novel, I'm not concerned about filling their cars with gas or giving them a rest stop on a long journey. Readers assume the mundane things are being taken care of.

In the world of dollhouses, there's no laundry to do, and a houseful of carpeting can be changed in a matter of minutes. In my mystery novels, the good guys always win and justice is always served.

What could be more satisfying?

Here's my latest miniature project: a post office, to go with my latest novels, the Postmistress Mysteries.

Although Cassie Miller, Postmistress in a small western Massachusetts town works in a colonial style building, this log cabin style struck me as quintessential US post office housing, and I can imagine Cassie visiting it, helping a fellow postmistress stuff the PO boxes on the right. Never mind that they're a cheat—simply a printout of a photo of post office boxes.


  1. Great post...loved the miniatures!

  2. Thanks for hosting me Marlyn!

    I'm glad you like the miniatures, Patricia. Making them is great therapy!

    1. Thank you so much for being my guest, Camille!