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.