Scrapbooking Your Novel

Hayley journal

By Carrie Seidel

While attempting to revamp a flat, secondary character, I had a conversation with him that went something like this:

Me:     “So, what do you look like?”

Secondary Character: “I have, uh, salt-and-pepper hair, and … um … gray eyes.”

Me:     “Really? That’s all you have to offer? Lame.”

SC:      “How about … oh, I don’t know … maybe a cool scar across my face?”

Me:     “I’m liking this. Keep going.”

SC:      “And it’s a sexy scar!”

Me:     “But you’re old!

SC:      “I’m changing my hair, too. Let’s go with sandy-brown. And scrap the gray eyes—too creepy. I’m young, hot, and dangerous! Google me under ‘sexy facial scars.’”

Me:     *eye roll*


SC:      “There. That’s me!”

Me:     “That’s Bradley Cooper.”

SC:      *relaxes against tree, hooks thumbs casually into belt-loops of tight-fitting jeans. Winks.*

“Not anymore, babe. Now it’s me.”

This revelation forever changed the dynamics of my novel, and more importantly, brought descriptive depth to my characters, settings, and all things visual—down to the most incidental props.

After discovering the true identity of SC, I unearthed photos for every character in my book, scouring internet sites, magazines … and photos from personal scrapbook albums. That’s when the “ah-ha” moment happened. Scrapbooking!

Novel scrapbooks come in handy from early beginnings to final revisions. By referencing full-color character pages, I’ve discovered deep wrinkles, droopy socks, and eyebrow shapes I wouldn’t have thought to describe. Not to mention background details. I’ve even scanned an exit sign and a bra. Plus, the characters’ unique voices stay on track with a page glance: spotting the gleam in their eye, the curve of their lips.

If you’re not into stickers, colored papers, and delightful trips to the craft store, collect pictures in computer folders—adequate, but not as accessible. For everyone else, break out the paper cutter!

Find a blank journal or photo album, perhaps one that suits the mood of the novel. Gather photos, memorabilia, clipart, stickers, craft paper, scissors, writing utensils, and tape. Next, utilize Google. Example: Type “middle school dance” in search bar. Click “images.” There’s the setting, dresses, and even awkward moments! Right click “save image as” and bingo! Instant scrapbook photos.

There’s no wrong way to organize your novel scrapbook. Mine starts with a decorated title page. A main character headshot fills page two. Page three displays her name, a head-to-toe photo, a slice of pizza, a soccer ball, and a ticket stub—stuff that’s important to her. But let’s say your setting is vitally important. Consider kicking off with pictures, drawings, or maps of your world.

Give all characters equal attention. Focus on detail! You may have to patchwork a character together for the desired result. Find close-ups of eyes and pictures of clothing. Leave blank pages between character profiles in case you need to add or change something. You can always rip them out later.

And what to do with the craft paper and stickers? Decorate! Frame photos. Add color to white spaces with paper scraps. Place kissy-lips stickers on a love interest, and “BFF” stickers on the friend’s page. Your character loves horses? There’s a sticker for that! Journaling and notes only enhance your project.

The end result is a tangible scrapbook to reference and admire, a window into what makes your novel tick.

SC:      “You know the photo you Googled for my page? That awesome leather jacket?”

*gazes expectantly with cerulean-blue eyes*

Me:     “What about it?”

SC:      *lifts an eyebrow—a thin scar that cuts into thick, sandy-brown hair nearly disappears*

“You want tangible? eBay has the real jacket for sale. Just one quick click …”



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2 Responses to Scrapbooking Your Novel

  1. What a cool idea! I’m not sure I have the patience, but I love the concept. There is something about tactile and creativity…Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wonderful idea, Carrie! Loved both your idea and your humorous way of making your point. Nicely done!

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