Why Pinterest is My New Favorite Writing Tool

I first began using Pinterest as a civilian. Beautiful photos full of pretty clothes, scrumptious food, hot boys, and funny nerd things filled my boards and I’m almost convinced I tried to pin things in my sleep. When Pinterest first exploded onto the social networking scene, it was easy to see it as a fun tool to become inspired as the Next Great Chef, City’s Best Dresser, or just burn up hours in a dull work day (kidding…sorta). It was all about images and looking at different things from around the Internet, but then I took a step back to realize Pinterest could be an amazing tool for writers.pinscreen

It’s impossible not to absolutely RUN with this idea of Pinterest as a writer’s marketing and inspiration help–sure, I can post book covers for current or favorite reads (my board there has been a little neglected lately), but what about using Pinterest for character and setting inspiration? Pinterest is the perfect tool for a writer–we can collect images we love, like city settings or character clothing. We can even upload our own photos if it helps with the process. For example, in my Super Nova title, Arcania City is almost a background character, based off my own downtown city.

This building in Roanoke is my setting inspiration for where Nova’s father works as Arcania City DA

Last week I took photos and then uploaded them to keep everything in one place. I’m still surprised by how useful it is to glance at a board and get a better idea of how to describe that Gothic structure or how a back alley connects to a main road, in turn helping a villain get away.

Another obvious way to use Pinterest as a writer is how we write our characters. I love collecting images of actors and models who, to me, resemble my characters. They might have a different hair color/style or be missing that beauty mark you love on your heroine, but you can get a general idea of what your characters look like when you compile images.

Pretty to look at AND useful for character descriptions.

Finding pretty people who could play my characters is always fun and gives me much better ideas of how to write a particular trait (that constant 5 o’clock shadow on your hero’s jaw or that just-right-shade of strawberry blonde hair) – I know I use Jensen Ackles a lot as my beautiful bad boy inspiration, but when I see him in certain photos, I remember to add that mischievous twinkle in my hero’s green eyes when he smiles or that his hair is constantly disheveled because he’s always running his hand through his hair out of habit.

Then there’s the general inspiration you can add to a particular board. My board for Gifted, for example, has character suggestions, but it also holds many images with circus decor. And I don’t just mean a tent and a game booth, but beautiful images of girls swallowing swords, ringmasters in full regale, and lit-up Ferris wheels. It’s full of magical images to remind me that I should always include sword-swallowers in the circus, that acrobats are always covered in a dusting of glitter, and of course, fire images that remind me of Lucy the Firestarter and how it should be described when she’s playing with fire in her hands.

Lastly, and I’ve briefly mentioned this already, but by uploading your own photos, Pinterest can help a writer with their marketing plan. Because so many people are already on Pinterest, by seeing your boards, they can get a better idea of how you see your story and really “see” what you’re writing. You can also upload your own team badges (like my Keegan and Gabriel ones), show off your book cover, or fun little things your fans might do for you in their devotion to the story.

And in case you want to check out my Pinterest boards (to see examples of how I use it for inspiration), here are the links:

Gifted, A Donovan Circus Novel

Witch Hearts, TBR Spring 2013

Super Nova

Pretty Boys (this one is just for fun, but I promise it’ll end up being your favorite board of them all. Seriously, please go look. And have a napkin ready for the drool that will hit your keyboard.)

How else can writers use Pinterest? Do you have a Pinterest filled with boards for your writing or other inspiration? Let’s be friends! Follow me on Pinterest!

Writing Characters: Layer ‘Em Like an Onion

When it comes to writing my characters, I’m all about layers. Occasionally, I’ll dive in and start writing scenes, especially ones I’ve been excited to write, but I like knowing my characters and how they’d react in their situation. One of the main reasons Lucy of Gifted is 21 years old is because I knew I couldn’t make her under 21–specifically because Lucy would never have the balls to sneak into a bar and drink underage. Lucy is brave, but not reckless (not usually, anyway) and is all about abiding rules and laws. It’s how she and her family stayed safe as gifted out in the human world for all those years.

https://i2.wp.com/www.digitalmediafx.com/Shrek/Images/Shrek10big.jpg

Shrek, the original onion layer, agrees that layers make a character.

For whatever reason, Gifted sort of simply came together for me. I mean, I worked hard on it and edited thousands of times to tie up all my loose ends, but sometimes it simply wrote itself through my fingers, my subconscious secretly piecing things together without my even realizing it. More importantly, the characters were almost a no-brainer. I knew almost immediately who they were, their roles in the story, what they looked like, and how their relationships with Lucy would evolve. I knew exactly how each person would react in any given situation. They were already old friends of mine and they nearly jumped off the page for me. I only had one major change with the characters–Renata, the Earthshaker we see a handful of times throughout, was actually a main player. I decided there were already lots of characters, so I scooted her to the background (though I kept in her big moment during a fight scene). After a while (like after the 2nd draft), I finally wrote everything down about the characters–their families, tics and habits, all of it. I made sure I knew those guys inside and out. And it took several layers that even led me to their secrets I might not have found otherwise had I not dug a little deeper.

When I say layer a character, I mean that’s my method of writing. I’d been having some difficulties with the WIP lately. When working on SuperNova, I couldn’t figure out why I was having such a blasted hard time with the characters. I could picture them in my mind, but I didn’t know them yet. Every scene I wrote sounded flat because despite my physical movements and settings, the voices were simply neutral. I could’ve traded them in for anyone. The last thing I want is Nova getting confused for Lucy. So last week, I took a step back and realized I’d skipped a step that I didn’t really have to do for my Gifted characters right away. I’d been so worried about getting the story out on paper that I didn’t take a good look at my characters, didn’t interview them or consider their thoughts and feelings.

Once I sit down to write characters, I spend pages and pages with them. Unless I’m acknowledging a relationship with another character in the book (brother/sister, love interest of, etc), the sole focus is that one person. I don’t just write about their appearance or how they react to things; I write about their fears, their insecurities, what makes them happy, their hopes and dreams, the tiny scar they have on their knee from 5th grade baseball, and so much more. I round out possible scenarios that I’ve outlined for the story and as I ask questions, I answer them along the way, cleaning up the loose ends that might be somewhere in the manuscript. For example, when writing about a new character, Penelope:

“Penelope Warner [age, physical description, role in story]…She’s younger, so more prone to jealousy and childishness…she’s bored and wants to stir up action…if [situation] occurred, she would [action]. When she first meets Nova, she thinks [thought]. How does she see her brother? When they are together [she acts this way], but if [character/situation] were to happen, maybe she’s [action].”

Sorry, I know that’s like the world’s worst Mad Lib, but you probably get the general idea (plus I know all the answers to those questions and I refuse to give spoilers before the first draft is even done!) 🙂 Once I’m done with the first layer, realizing who they are, I can move on to the next: placing them in scenes. Because I’ve already set up everything, I add in specifics, such as their facial expressions (reactions), tics (like Lucy’s finger tapping), or emotional reactions (Delia’s cookie problem). I also get little ideas within those scenes on how to move forward. Sometimes I get thrown for a loop, but often it leads to a helpful dose of detail later on in the book.

I have no doubt that layering sounds a little strange to some, just as other techniques might baffle me. However, it’s working for me in this strange little system. It’s like I’ve put all the ingredients together and now it’s time to bake the cake (I’ve got dessert on the brain). The point is, no matter how a writer composes their story, it’s important for us to know our characters inside and out. When they talk to you, write everything down! It doesn’t matter if family history or a random event in their life doesn’t make the cut–it makes the characters who they are. Those ideas shape them just as any of our pasts shape us. Brainstorming is fun and you’ll put all the pieces together eventually. Even if the details don’t make it into the story, it helps us to create our world and its people.