I don’t go to the level of detail Betsy does (although maybe I should!), but I do create visual storyboards for settings and each main character—the clothing they’d wear, their day-to-day environments and anything visual I might have need to describe. Even if I don’t use these images in the story, they stick in my head, and they usually help in choosing the right words to describe the character’s emotions or actions.
These visuals are especially important when I’m writing about a character that’s far from my personal reality—like rich people. :-)
I like writing about rich people. But not just any old rich people. Old rich. Filthy rich, as my mother used to say...which makes me speculate where the adjective came from.
I like reading about rich people, too. It’s one form of escapism, I suppose, without the headaches of having to manage massive investment portfolios or worry about threats of kidnapping or people stealing from me, or befriending me for the wads of cash in my piggy bank.
With the resources available via a quick Google search, outfitting the fictional rich is easy, and probably much more fun than real-life shopping (or so I tell myself).
For housing, I laze my way through magazines like Coastal Living or Southern Living – wherever the character is from. Or Pinterest, of course. I create my dream kitchen or garden for that particular story, or whatever setting a scene calls for.
For example, in my current WIP, I have a scene where the heroine, her mother and sister are having a girls’ night out to watch movies. Since they’re not just rich, but rule-the-world rich, I searched for theater-style seating for the home, added a bar and mini kitchen (so, you know, they don’t have to travel all the way to the kitchen for food), and gave the room luxurious accessories, like cashmere throws to cuddle in.
Here’s an image on my Pinterest storyboard of seating available from homeportfolio.com. I used the general layout but made the seating more plush with brighter fabrics. (It's not like we have to worry about cleaning after all!)
For my heroine's family home, I'm using the manor house at the real Westover Plantation on the James River in Virginia, which is also the general setting for my story. Here's an image of their entry gate. (In my story, concealed security cameras help to guard the family from evil-minded interlopers.)
(An aside for you history buffs: The real plantation’s manor house was thought to be built by William Byrd, III, whose father, William Byrd II, founded Richmond, Virginia.)
But I digress...
To clothe my rich characters, one of my favorite sources is the J. Peterman catalog. Have you ever checked one out? It’s different. The inventory is limited and mostly consists of clothing for men and women, along with a few accessories. Each item is depicted by a hand-drawn illustration—like a designer’s sketch— instead of just a boring old photo, and each is accompanied by its own story.
Here’s an example of the “Adventurous Shirtdress” I’m coveting.
(The current sale has it priced down from $149 to a palatable $54...and free shipping! Luckily for me, my size is sold out.)
Here’s the fun story that describes the dress:
"Wearing this, you could be standing in Nairobi, in Santa Fe, or even in midtown Manhattan and still look better than everyone else.Even without the image, I want this dress!
"You could be carrying oversized portfolios through humid streets, haggling in the Ixtapa bazaar, shepherding small children through Epcot, and still look self-possessed.
"To look like Ava, open three buttons. Or wear it entirely open, like a duster, with a white tank and shorts. That would be an adventure...."
Granted, these prices don't rise to the level of what the rule-the-world rich might pay, but the lifestyle stories match. So to feed my Peterman obsession, I signed up for their newsletter, and sometimes I have to delete the emails without opening because I know I’ll be sucked into pouring over the latest sale items and their “stories,” instead of focusing on my own. But even when I do, I tell myself it’s all in the name of research. Right?
Maybe that’s why I like writing about rich people. I like to imagine myself having the kind of resources to do whatever I want, whenever I want—without all the worry and work, of course! Writing gives me a reason to indulge in this one guilty pleasure, without any real guilt.
Don't we all have "guilty" reading pleasures? What about writing? What are yours?
When not researching clothing and environments for her super-rich characters, Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. Learn more at leahstjames.com. Check out her storyboards on Pinterest. She also occasionally posts about life and writing on Facebook.