Floor Plans and Visuals in World Building

There are lots of ways I plan and generate ideas when I’m building the world of a story. When I’m working on a novel, I get a notebook where I can jot down everything from outlines and timelines to characters sketches and scene ideas.

I’ve heard of many writers who doodle and draw in their creative process. While I like visual inspiration,  I am no artist, so my brainstorming usually takes written form – journal entries, letters and scribbled questions.

One thing I do like to see a visual of is a layout of my character’s home.

floor plan

When I am building the world of my characters, it often starts with the place where they live. Do they live in a studio apartment, a townhouse, a mansion? How many rooms does it have? Is it spacious or cramped?  How is it decorated?

In the days when Internet was dial-up, I used to look through home and garden magazines and department store catalogs to find images that seemed to reflect my characters’ tastes in bedding, curtains, furniture and gardens. I would clip them and save them in folders that I could revisit when I needed help describing something or setting the scene.

Pinterest has since replaced my magazine clipping and is a fun way to collect ideas and inspiration. (see my post on Pinterest for Writers, Readers and Bloggers)

I found websites that let you design floor plans for free which can be a ton of fun but mostly, I don’t have the patience for all that. All I need is a rough sketch to help me visualize things.

Sketching a floor plan usually comes somewhere in the middle of the creative process for me. I’ll have a vague image of the space in my mind as I’m writing, but eventually I get to a point where I like to see how everything is connected. Once I draw out the floor plan, it helps me to understand where my characters (physically) are as they move through the rooms.

After I have a solid grasp around the layout of the rooms, I can focus on the details like the  arrangement of the furniture and the location of windows and doors.

Then I turn to visuals like Pinterest to think about the decor and how it reflects the character’s personality and tastes.

Slowly, it all starts to come together. I no longer have characters walking around in white-washed rooms, they have a leather couch to collapse on to and a copper tea kettle on the gas stove to make a warm beverage.

Writers, do you create floor plans when you’re world-building? Do you sketch or draw as part of your creative process? What sort of visuals do you use to inspire your stories?

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Is Listening to Music while you Write a Distraction or an Inspiration?

When I sit down to write, one of the first things I do is open up Pandora before I start writing.

Some writers find background music a distraction, but I love to have music on while I write.

When it comes to music, I listen to aIMG_0345 little bit of everything. My taste in music include all realms of country music, from artists like Toby Keith and Jason Aldean, to the Dixie Chicks to Johnny Cash.  I listen to pop music like Maroon 5 and Justin Timberlake, and classic rock bands from the 60’s and 70’s. I have Pandora stations for Jimmy Buffet, Bob Seger and the Eagles.

But when I’m writing, I like to listen to mellow background music: Dave Matthews, John Mayer, or if I’m feeling especially emo, Death Cab for Cutie. There’s nothing like an emotionally charged song about unrequited love or a broken heart to get me into a pensive mood: Coldplay’s “Sparks,” or my favorite DMB song, “Stay or Leave.” I love anything with an acoustic guitar, or a long jam like Weezer’s “Only in Dreams.”

Music has become part of my writing process. I set Pandora to Dave Matthews Band radio and type away.

Music can set the tone or help to channel a character. When I’m writing a scene set during the Holidays, I listen to Christmas music – no matter the time of year. When I’m working on a longer project, listening to the type of music that I imagine my character would listen to, helps me get into their mindset. For my current novel-in-progress, I listen to jazz when I’m writing from the perspective of my main characters, Miranda, who is a jazz singer and pianist. Now it seems I can’t hear Frank Sinatra without thinking of Miranda. Her musical career is modeled after that of Canadian jazz artist, Diana Krall and I listen to her music for inspiration.

Do you listen to music while you write or do you find it too distracting? What songs are on your writing playlist?