A story jumble is a big, randomly organized mosaic of images, quotes, audio, and other media drawn mostly from the Web which serve as inspiration for creative projects. It’s not meant to be an outline or a story board, or make any kind of linear narrative sense. Hence the term jumble. And also, yes, the name rhymes with “tumble”, though I resisted calling this a “tumbl jumbl”.
Tumblr makes it very easy to save, categorize and format various kinds of information, be it a pic, quote or a snip of a conversation. Many sites have a share-button enabled for Tumblr, so you’re usually only a click away from adding, say, a photo from Flickr. There are also some fantastic tumbleblogs chock full of stunning concept art which you can follow and then “reblog” or repost to your own collection — again, with just a click. The Staky 2 theme for Tumblr turns what is usually a long narrow column of information — classic tumbleblog format — into something like a mosaic.
Categorizing according to project is a simple matter of tagging. I created a few custom links in the sidebar so I could quickly switch between projects. I just link to the appropriate tag.
I have no doubt that many folks out there have at one time or other snipped photos from magazines and pasted them onto foam core or tacked them onto cork boards as inspiration. The idea of an inspiration board is nothing new, but the all-digital story jumble’s purpose is to facilitate the quick gathering and displaying of media in a way that keeps inspiration simmering. I find the process of sorting, choosing, filing and reviewing images and other media a great way to “think” about my project without trying to force inspiration. It’s a kind of back door into my muse’s fortress, a sneaky way to casually stroll past resistance without raising the alarm. As items accrue, patterns and connections begin to suggest themselves. Creative leaps are made. My favorite collection so far is something I’m just referring to as Seekrit Projeckt #1 for the moment. Though I began with a general idea of the setting and tone, I didn’t have much else. While gathering images for the story jumble, I discovered two new characters who will be in the story.
I’m also experimenting with using my story jumble to help pitch my work. I’ve interspersed bits of dialogue in my Troop 51 Saves the World jumble to help set the tone and tease the story a bit more specifically. Magazine covers and movie posters help sell the pulpy vibe. Together the images solidify the story as something real in the mind. It’s like a teaser trailer, laid out one frame at a time.
A few caveats. It took a good two days to massage Tumblr’s setting and get everything working. and there are still glitches. Significantly, images tend to get piled on top of each other at the bottom of the page. Sometimes refreshing the browser helps, but it’s hit or miss. Also, Tumblr is (in)famous for being unreliable, and only yesterday the whole service went down for what seemed like a half an hour. Even today, it’s responding slowly. I’m considering moving things over to my own domain, but then I lose the ease of snipping things from the web.
For your browsing and inspirational convenience, here are the links to my current projects.
If you have your own inspiration board, be it digital, analog or a combination, please share it and your process in the comments.