The Great Big Jump Presents: A Screenplay of Sorts – The Polyvore Version

Those of you who have been following my attempts to write this screenplay may be familiar with my struggle to create the character of Iris Garcia, the foil (and love interest) to our buddy Pete Driscoll. At first I couldn’t  figure out who she is, exactly: putting her character through all the worksheets made her look more interesting than a random hot chick, but the back story that I produced for her had the potential to bog down the screenplay as a whole.

The solution? Create a set for her on Polyvore.

Grunge Retro

Grunge Retro by meimei96 

Now, as much as I love using Pinterest for my writing-related needs, I find Polyvore to be quite helpful in visualizing my female characters, especially when they are defined by their own fashion sensibilities. In the case of Iris, I had to create a picture of her based on things that she might buy and/or wear, which in turn would bring out information on the things she values – or yearns for – the most.
Here’s what I learned about Iris, based on her “shopping history” on Polyvore:

She’s a product of her times. Iris may have been a “good girl” growing up – she went to an all-girls’ Catholic school before she transferred to Ashland as a freshman – but that did not stop her from defying the expectation of what a “good girl” was supposed to look like. Her coming-of-age in the Pacific Northwest during the “grunge” era gave her the license to be as comfortable as possible with wearing flannel shirts and dark nail polish to school without letting people forget that she was still getting straight A’s. In a strange way, she probably still thinks of herself as a rebel, even if the dark nailpolish has been upgraded to Chanel Vamp
She’s feminine, but subversive. Take, for example, the signature fragrance that Iris chose to adopt as her own: Flowerbomb, by Viktor & Rolf. The name itself describes her sensibilities quite accurately, since her sweet demeanor (not to mention her sensible shoes and ModCloth-inspired wardrobe) can barely hide the fact that she spent some time at MIT constructing elaborate pranks. There is nothing bitchy about her, but give her an opportunity to pull a fast one and she’ll tackle it with glee. 
She has a good reason to be gun-shy when it comes to romance. One of the surprises that came up while writing the script outline was the possibility of Iris and Pete sharing a “history” with each other; apparently she had thrown herself at Pete before, as an impressionable tweener, but chose to shrug it off as an indiscretion. Yet, several years later, Iris ends up in a long-term relationship with Pete’s nemesis Grant Spalding, who she thinks is her knight in shining armor… until Grant asks her to perform an unthinkable act of betrayal. That’s not to say that Grant and Pete are the only men in her love life (unlike Pete’s late wife Lauren, who dumped one to run off with the other) but they’re part of the emotional baggage that she carries whenever she finds herself falling in love with someone. It should come as no surprise that she and Pete do end up with each other, but the fun part starts when we get to how they move together towards the endgame.

Most of all, she’s full of contradictions. She’s sweet, and seductive; she’s carefree, yet calculating. She can fend for herself, but isn’t above getting a little assist from the boys. She loves Oregon, but does not want to be held back by living in a small town – or, worse, moving to the next town only to be pulled back into Ashland. There’s a little bit of me in her, too, but not so much as to make her too precious.

Remember, this is just one of many strategies that you can use to build up characters and themes in your stories, and it might not work for everyone. If you are into graphics, however, and want a literal, concise “picture” of what you want to see in your story, then why not give Polyvore a whirl? Who knows, you might even be in for a pleasant surprise.  

Love, Stella

2 Responses

  1. This sounds like something I could certainly do for Jillian. I've only peeked at Polyvore for a set that was inspired by Commander Shepard, Mass Effect. There is a whole series of video game heroines done by the same person. Pretty cool, I think. I've barely scratched the surface with Pinterest as well. Both look really cool, just haven't figured out how it all works yet.

    I'm totally a fan of finding visual reference for character development. I think the more we become imbedded in the visual technology we being to rely on those site clues to help us invision things. I often put up images of the inspirations of my characters when writing. It helps me to see their facial expression and nuances, makes it easier to come up with new ways to describe their body language. I liken this to collaging in art/design class to brainstorm ideas. Will definitely give it a try.

    Iris sounds like she's evolved into a dimensional character. She's fun and trendy, confident and capable, but she has vulnerabilities to make her not perfect. Which we know is a must. And while she is the main love interest for the hero, you don't want her issues to overrun his. He has a lot more to get over and the story really seems like it's his not hers.

    Keep writing!

  2. @Indigo: I need to check out that FemShep set soon! I dropped out of Polyvore when it got invaded by kids posting too many Twilight sets (aided, no doubt, by sappy Gothic declarations of twue wuv) but got sucked back in while I was doing my screenplays. Needless to say, I'm hooked again.

    You're right about how visual technology has been a great influence on writing these days. I've noticed that some of the writers I know start off with visuals first before writing the bulk of their stories. Some of the writers I've encountered during Script Frenzy were using the "script" format (for film, TV, theater, or graphic novels) to either "tighten up" existing NaNos or draft basic outlines for possible novels in the future. It will be interesting to see how this relationship between text and visuals evolve in the long run, especially with visual sites like Polyvore and Pinterest gaining traction.

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Stella Torres

is the author of the adult contemporary romances Save the Cake, Crushingly Close, and Nine Years Away, as well as the short story “Be Creative” in the anthology Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Vol. 1.

In her previous life, she has worked in public relations, taught English as a second language, and even attended graduate school (twice!). She has lived in Indonesia, Honolulu, and Quezon City before moving back to her hometown of Los Banos, a few hours’ drive (with traffic) from the heart of Manila.

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