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Mood boards / visual representations of stories. Part 2

In Part One of this blog I looked at how Mood Boards can help conjure a story up for the writer, and in turn for the reader. Fleshing out the aesthetics and focusing the lens that the narrative is revealed under. I focused on how it is not just the images – revealing the era, setting, atmosphere and mood of a setting – but also the composition of a mood piece that reflects the composition of a story. Not only in terms of which images are most central (which in turn reflects which central preoccupations the story might have) but also in terms of how the number of images chosen in an array might reflect the preoccupations of the writer. As will be evident in the plot and in the language used around the unfolding plot.
But there are other ways that visual representations of story can reveal an artist and the work they are developing. I am reminded of the collages made by Richard Edwards, the Manic Street Preachers lyricist. He made many collages over the course of his life, often during the recording of the band’s albums. This first one – with its Warhol -like references to Brillo pads, juxtaposed with images of movie starlets, evokes the clash of glamour and commercialism that typified his band’s debut album, Generation Terrorists.

Here, the collage reveals the authors preoccupations. The ‘Manics’ are an interesting example to draw from, not only because they were such adept bricoleurs. But also because they combined quotes of influential artists in their album sleeves, making their records a kind of dialogue with their heroes. As well as a nexus of influences for the readers to absorb themselves.
I think there is a good reason why people interviewing artists always want to know what work influenced them. Because it is all part of the material that was further refined in the final, finished product. By making this process explicit the Manics were conceptually placing themselves within the vein (or Lifeblood, to quote one of their albums) of the work they emanated from.
A later photo of Edwards in his flat shows how his furious collaging- including images of Kate Moss, Bob Marley and John Lennon- reflected the oeuvre of work that was fermenting within his artistic (and personal) consciousness.

The writer Will Self (who has himself appeared in more recent Manic Street Preachers collages) visually represented his novels in a different manner. Self (who employed psycho-geographer Nick Papadimitriou to research details about London for his novel ‘The North London Book Of The Dead-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNGskCNrBHY) used maps to keep in mind, as he wrote the geographic parameters of his settings.

Although I don’t pretend to know what Self had on the elaborate arrangements of post-it notes in his office (which eerily resemble the lair of some kind of master criminal) their stacking and visual arrangement suggest that ideas were being visually presented and ordered. Proving that the visual representation of the book is a useful tool for any writer.

In part one of this blog I mentioned the aesthetic and mood conveyed by the author Clementine Fraser in mood boards she made in service of her writing. They reminded me to of another artist who influenced my view of art as a multi-disciplinary venture, the Smashing Pumpkins songwriter Billy Corgan. His work not only fleshes out the mood aspired to in its songs in the evocative photography by Yelena Yemchuk, as is apparent in the artwork for the 1997 single ‘Perfect-

But he also often presented his handwritten lyrics alongside images that further embodied the mood of his writing.

All of which leads me to conclude that the artistic art is a desire to make real the imaginary. And so by necessity employing as wide a range of mediums as possible takes us closer to that elusive goal.

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

  • Thank you Guy. Both parts of the post have been thought provoking to a student new to the Creative Writing Foundation Course.
    I found Will Self’s post-it wall overwhelming, almost panic inducing, although more orderly. I interpret Edwards’ collage as being influential, giving ideas for creativity, and see Self’s as the structure to his writing, the order in which events occur perhaps.
    At the moment I have postcards of writers and illustrations from their books dotted around, and flash cards with quotes on about why they write, the importance of words etc. These have helped encourage me to start the course. They give me permission to write.

  • Hi Sue, thanks for your comment. So glad you found the post useful, I agree with what you say about Self’s visual prompts. I think Edwards’ collages in many ways were the thematic foundation to the Manics’ lyrics. Guy

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