A writer’s mood board

Many of the authors I know, in their story development stage, gather together ideas in the way lots of creative professionals do, by building them into a mood board. It helps to form those early inspirations into a context that creates a good story. A story – in romance that has a strong beginning middle and end, and in thrillers has a strong beginnnig, fifteen suprise deviations and a shocking end ;D .

I’ve often talked about inspirations for the settings of scenes, and the plotlines in my books but there are also inspirations for the appearance of characters. Authors cut out pictures from magazines, of the public, actors and models they identify with and pin them onto cork boards along with pictures of places and sometimes maps of fictional villages and towns. My historical story boards are in my mind, on my laptop and despersed through books. There are hunderds of photos in folders, that I’ve taken on visits to places that have inspired me, and piles of books around the house with coloured bookmarkers or peices of paper poking out of the important pages. As my fans will know, for most books I also capture some of the things I’ve used as inspirtion in accompanying Pinterest Boards. So readers can see the places, items, properties and people that inspired elements of the stories.

These images include the rooms which inspired Clio’s home and lifestyle in Hartlepool, in Entangled. Then the follies at Stourhead and Newstead Abbey, Lord Byron’s property, which were inspirations for George’s home.

But I discovered a new inspiration for characters last year that I haven’t shared here before. My husband and I live in an old cottage and after we’d built an extension decided to change the furniture in the old half of the house too. So, we started hunting for antiques. But while I was searching for antique furniture I found myself being distracted by minatures in the antiques shops. I spent ages looking into the eyes and faces of people in their small portraits. As I said last week, it’s absorbing wondering who they were and how they lived, and then they became the characters. So, I started gathering some of these images. It’s no different from choosing a face in a magazine today, really.

I bought a few minatures. But then I began just saving pictures of them, because I can’t buy them all. I have about a hundred pictures.

What I particularly love is the minatures that look like mistresses. I imagine the small paintings secreted in a gentleman’s chest pocket near to his heart :’D . He’d take it out and look at it, and show his friends to brag about his prize. You can usually spot a mistress in a portrait, even among the portraits on the walls in the large stately homes. They are painted with a coquettish air and usually exposing a large part, if not all, of one breast. I’ve said it often – the Georgian’s kept their mistresses unspoken of in polite society but in plain sight. While the Victorians pretended to be pious and hid their mistresses behind closed doors. Below is the sort of image that makes me imagine this young woman was someone’s mistresss. It’s bejewelled so I think he was very proud of winning her attention, if not her affection. And she probably came at a high price. It’s the sort of portrait that would inspire a story let alone a character. I imagine her to be a woman like Harriette Wilson – and there’s a tale of a mistress that followers of this blog know very well.

The true story of a 19th Century Courtesan ~ Harriette Wilson

The true stories, Harriette Wilson, the 19th Century Courtesan, didn’t tell in her memoirs

Macabre or beautiful? ~ mourning treasures

I’m going backwards again and sharing another inspiration behind the story of Entangled. I mentioned yesterday, my leaning toward the macarbe (it is definitely no wonder that I’ve ended up moving into writing thrillers). Like I said, I’d prefer to stand on Lyme Regis harbour wall watching a threatening, storming sea thrashing the stone wall, than laying flat on a sunbed on a tropical beach.

So the fascination I have with antique mourning jewellry shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Although, I don’t think I’ve shared that on my blog before. By the time of the regency period many people wore jewellry with an artfully placed lock of hair held in place by glass, to remember a loved one. It might be to remember a living person, but more often it was to remember someone who had passed. It may sound strange today, but it’s not really, they didn’t have a stack of albums or computer folders full of photographs. Perhaps they had a minature portrait, it they were lucky, often just one. Employing artists was a more expensive luxury than jewellry. There were more jewellers than artists because you can’t just learn to be a painter who can precisely capture someone’s appearance as you can learn to manipulate metals, there has to be some rarer natural skill. Therfore, a jeweller’s time was less expensive than a good artist’s. The phrase ‘paying an arm and a leg’ for something comes from the fact that a full portrait was expensive and most people, even the upperclass, would only pay for the head and shoulders. But also, someone’s hair means you retain a part of their presence.

There’s a mourning brooch at Jane Austen’s cottage museum at Chawton containing her father’s hair. If you look out for peices of jewellry in museums and antiques shops, you’ll see a lot, and some, like those in the heading images are really beautiful. I think it’s brilliant. I imagine people regularly looking at their pieces or touching them, rubbing a finger or a thumb over the glass as they think of their missing loved one. It would bring the memories and the good emotions back. Wearing a brooch or a ring with a loved one’s hair inside, meant you always had a part of the person with you.

Of course, because I love mourning jewellry, I had to weave it into the story of atleast one book ( 😉 ). Remember also that last week I told you about Ed Sheeran’s song Photograph, which is about a locket, inspiring aspects of Entangled. James, one of my Wickedly Romantic Poets, is a lover of keeping hair, and that is also an intergral part of the story which links the first book in the series to the last. He cuts a lock of Clio’s hair in the prologue of the Thread of Destiny, and he’s already wearing a ring containing the hair of his deceased mother.

I have recently discovered that I have dyspraxia as well as dyslexia and the way my mind works perhaps makes a little more sense now, because I litterally look at a piece of mourning jewellry and my mind races with questions and the desire to see and know that person. So when I saw this minature with what I think must be a lock of his hair, I had to buy it. It makes the image of him more real, giving it a 3D context.

I’ve tried to find out who this gentleman is, without any luck unfortunately, nor can I tell who owned this, his wife, mother, lover … I don’t know. It must be someone who wanted to keep him close while he was distant, because I assume it was made when he was alive, due to the painting. But then the thing with not knowing is that I have to make it up, and that’s a joy and exactly where stories begin …

I didn’t say above, but this bracelt in Beatrix Potter’s cottage is not only displaying human hair, the actual braclet is woven peices of human hair.

Oh and one more cheeky fact before I end this post, I have said it before in my Scandalous Women posts, but I’ll share it again. Lady Caroline Lamb and Lord Byron shared pubic hair, so, I’m sure a lot of that went on too. I didn’t put that act of his in my poets novels, though. 😀

Inspirations for the Wickedly Romantic Poets Series

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