This is not a deck of cards (tropes and process)

You might have already seen my post for on the process of illustrating Flyaway (Illustrating Flyaway: Kathleen Jennings on Creating Art and Prose Together), but there wasn’t room for all the possible sketches I had for it.

Here’s another, from early in my development of the project. At this point, I was thinking through all my favourite (and least favourite, and most obvious, and subtlest, and possible) tropes and common elements of Australian Gothic writing (and also influenced by Ninepin Press’ The Family Arcana).


Sometimes I’ll make a list of favourites from a current type of story, and then mix and match at random until the right feeling or setting or plot for a picture (or something I’m writing) emerges. Sometimes I draw up cards and turn it into a game.

Sometimes, just thinking about the possibility of that, and the sort of things I might play with is enough — the drawing of a game. This is not the first time I’ve taken this shortcut: Behold, direct from… a really really long time ago (please interpret accordingly!), An Encyclopaedia of Improbable Games.

But you can see much more about the art behind Flyaway on Tor.

Drawing/writing activities and a parlour game (also good in cafes, if you have cafes):

  • (Adapted from a combination of workshop activities by Kelly Link, Kim Wilkins, and Anne Gracie): Think of something you are (or want to be — or should be!) working on.
    – What type of story does it belong to? (Suburban gothic? High fantasy? Secret-baby romance?)
    – Make a list of your favourite elements in that sort of story, and another list of your least favourite (try and get at least ten of each).
    – This is useful as a diagnostic (are you writing about anything you actually enjoy as a reader? are you only drawing the least appealing parts of this scene?), for strengthening an image or story (clearly it needs a floating cat, and do you have at least the emotional equivalent of a race-to-the-airport-scene? are there small spirits living in the pot plants, or did you forget to leave out the ominous wall decorations?), and for combining to come up with new ideas.
  • When with friends, tear up paper into cards — seven or so for each person. Pick a genre (or even just a favourite story world — we’ve done this with fairy tales, but also with Doctor Who).
    – Everyone sketches their favourite elements onto their cards (one element per card). Shuffle all the cards together.
    – Go around the table and tell the story (a fairy tale, and episode of Doctor Who), taking turns to play a card and incorporate that into the story.
    – Or each person picks three and draws (or writes/tells) a scene suggested by that combination.
    – (If you want a card game along these lines, I really like Atlas Game’s Once Upon a Time).

8 thoughts on “This is not a deck of cards (tropes and process)

  1. Pingback: When in doubt, make lists (and shuffle them) | Kathleen Jennings

  2. Pingback: April post round-up | Kathleen Jennings

  3. Pingback: Flyaway: A silhouette in gold! | Kathleen Jennings

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  5. Pingback: Fairy tales and silhouettes: An interview with Juliet Marillier | Kathleen Jennings

  6. Pingback: Flyaway out in US paperback! | Kathleen Jennings

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