Mood boards / visual representations of stories. Part 1 | The Open College of the Arts
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Mood boards / visual representations of stories. Part 1

The mood board – or the visual representation of the setting of a story generally, can be a great way to help bring a story to life. It also feeds the imagination – enhancing the tale you are hoping to put across. I often feedback to students that a given setting in a story needs to be clear in the author’s mind for the reader to have any chance of clearly imagining it. But I would in fact even go further than that. Ideally, the setting should be so realistic that the reader – on some level – believes that setting to be real. So that the author – far from constructing it for the first time for the purposes of the story – is naturally relating their – or their characters – experience of that place.
The idea of a ‘mood board’ conjures up ideas of noticeboards or collages which are all in service of cultivating a certain mood, or atmosphere.
The ‘wilde-like-an-aesthete’ author mood board springs to mind.

Like any good story does this mood board demonstrates a sense of era – in this case a historical mood evoking, perhaps the work of Daphne Du Maurier or Emily Bronte. But the lens of the author (to deliberately merge two artistic disciplines) is apparent here too. I do think the good mood board – not just in the images chosen but also in the relative number of images concerning one story facet – should reflect the composition of the story it evokes.
In this story images of plants, nature, and even how industry is beginning to make an impact on nature during the era of this novel, show that the final work will reflect the author’s imagination. Perhaps in particular this mood board reflects a preoccupation with nature, which might be apparent in the descriptive language.
I have sometimes thought of how stories have conceptual margins, around the plot. For instance, my own novel ‘How I Left The National Grid’, although ostensibly concerned with the quest to find a vanished musician revealed other artistic choices in the way this story was told. The fact that the hunt for this man went through various urban hinterlands – nightclubs, service stations, abandoned seaside towns – allowed me to tell the story using carefully chosen tools. That is, imaginary settings that cultivate an insight into the fractured realities of the postmodern world and how my story could, in turn, illuminate them.
For my money, Clementine Fraser’s mood board, ‘Dust Bound End Chapter Collage’ is a good example of the author mood board.

What I find particularly intriguing about it isn’t just that the black and white, soft-focus pictures have elegance and shared representation of a certain aesthetic way of living. It is that within this overall representation (which acts like a kind of veil, or lens by which to view the world) it has a breadth that takes on various moods. Closer inspection to the mood board reveals harrowing images of destruction and desperation.
But just as the plot always requires characters to be taken to extremes to reveal them, so too the authors view (or lens, or veil) is always the parameters through which the story is expressed.

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Posted by author: Guy Mankowski
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2 thoughts on “Mood boards / visual representations of stories. Part 1

  • Great idea to use visualisations for your writing. I’m a bit suspicious of the word “mood” but whatever other means than the writing itself that will help your writing is always worth a try. Not sure I’d pick Clementine Fraser as the best example to follow but I guess if you are doing her kind of writing, then her kind of mood board might be helpful. But each writer needs to develop their own visualisation board that will suit their writing..

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