Visual Inspiration


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Of all the tools I use when I write from the Scrivener software to Bing to the online dictionary and thesaurus, Pinterest is the one that often surprises people when I tell them I use it. How can a site dedicated to “pinning” pictures on a virtual bulletin board help a writer? Quite simply, I find it’s a place for visual inspiration and a way to give some physical manifestation to my characters and settings.

I live in the Pacific Northwest, which is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful natural settings on the planet (and I’ve been to a lot of places around the world). I find splendid natural settings to be inspirational, to put me in the writing mood, so when I see something that strikes me as fantastic, I want to write. There’s an endless parade of beautiful natural settings in the Pacific NW, but when I’m in my office sitting in my chair with only the view of the street in front of my house, it’s nice to be able to scroll through the gorgeous landscape photography on Pinterest and imagine I’m there instead of looking at my neighbor’s house (no offense to my neighbor, the house is fine in its own right). There have been many times when I’ve begun my writing time by scrolling through landscape pictures on Pinterest just to put me in the mood to write. It never fails to provide the visual inspiration I need.

Pinterest is not just about drooling over gorgeous natural scenery, it’s also a useful tool that helps me find the perfect images for my characters and settings. I’ve found pictures of people on Pinterest that I use as the basis for my characters. Mara, one of the key characters in my current novel, exists as a lone picture I found on Pinterest. I copied the picture to my character description in Scrivener, and I use it whenever I’m writing about her. Yes, my detailed character description should be enough, but I find having a picture makes it easier to reference. My character descriptions can be a page or two long, so having a visual makes it quicker if I want to check how I’m describing her in my novel. Since I’m writing a novel over a six-month stretch, consistency is not as easy as you may think. A picture helps me stay consistent.

The same holds true for settings. Sure, many places exist only in my mind, but I pivot a lot over the course of writing a novel. Sometimes, places can become something entirely different by the end of the novel, so it helps to have a visual anchor, and if I change things up, I need to get another visual anchor so that I can go back and ensure my writing is consistent (there’s that “c” word again). Once I finish a first draft, I usually let the work sit for a month or two so that I can approach it fresh when I do my many edits. During that dormant period, I’ve moved on to another work, so all the mental images I had in my head while writing the first draft are overwritten by new ones. Having the images from Pinterest when I return to edit the work helps me get back into the mindset of the novel once again.

Pinterest is a great tool for writers whether you need visual inspiration or props for your characters and settings. It’s one of the tools I use almost daily. Give it a try and see if it works for you.

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