Manipulating Life

The best thing about writing novels is also the best thing about doing miniatures: you get to manipulate the world any way you please. In fact, dollhouses are a kind of fiction, and fiction writing is definitely a craft.

Here are a couple of handy dollhouse realities: it’s a fictitious roof, so if there’s a little flaw in your gluing job where you laid down the tiles, the roof still won’t leak when it rains; no one will know whether the sheet corners on the bed are perfect (or even there at all!) under the comforter in the master bedroom; and you’ll never have a plumbing problem in the bathroom.

As you craft the novel, you have the same power to put things in order, or not. You can construct a satisfying Whodunit with justice for all at the end; or weave twisty plots toward a cliffhanger ending; or send the bad guy happily off into the sunset. As a miniaturist, you can construct a lovely half-inch-scale cottage with a kitchen full of food that never spoils; but if you’d rather, you can mess things up by turning a miniature room into a crime scene, such as I did with the living room in the house below.


Both in writing and crafting miniatures, you can defy age. With only a little maintenance, your dollhouse will never get old or lose its resale value; similarly, your heroine can stay young, even through a dozen books, released a year apart. In my Miniature Mysteries, my protagonist’s granddaughter entered the world at 10 years old (2008). In the eighth book (due 2015 from PP), she’s 11. She’ll never become a testy teen. How handy is that?

One of my favorite miniature projects was creating a museum. I love real-life museums and have been known to spend entire days in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. But my miniature museum has one feature that’s impossible in real life: it has only paintings I like.


I’ve hung several paintings by Edward Hopper, Picasso, and Van Gogh, for example, but none by contemporary artists whose work looks a little like a day care project to my untrained eye. There are sculptures by Rodin, but no ancient stone figures (apologies to the Egyptologists out there).

I used the power of crafting to make a museum that’s perfect for me, just as I use the power of a novel to make characters and stories that satisfy me.

When I donate a dollhouse to a charity—a great move, since it also means I get to buy another one!—I supply some furniture, but not all. I include instead supplies for making other pieces, sometimes with instructions, sometimes not. I want the new owner to have that same powerful feeling of being in charge of her environment.

Similarly, when I teach writing, I give my students guidelines, prompts, questions to help them shape their own stories.

Writing and crafting—both powerful tools for life.


One Response

  1. Lovely metaphor, Camille. Makes me nostalgic for the childhood dollhouse my father built for me. And it works beautifully as an analogy for our teaching and writing. Brava!

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