Wednesday Writing Exercise: Visualizing with Pinterest


It seems that Pinterest is the latest social media darling. I have to be honest, though. I don’t really understand all of the hoopla, especially in terms of its applications for most writers and publishers. At it’s core, Pinterest is an online scrapbooking site, and maybe you’re into that. My first reaction was that it was just more noise, and I certainly didn’t need anymore distractions.

I am a visual person, however, and because I consider it part of my job description to stay on top of this stuff, I jumped through the hoops and snagged an invite to Pinterest. (You can follow my work-in-progress Books & Publishing pinboard here, and I’ll follow you back.)

Other than sharing the covers of my favorite books, I struggled to find applications for those of us who focus on words. (I did add a Wordle visualization of Pubmission to my pinboard, though.) Certainly, if you’re a children’s book publisher/writer you could fill your board with illustrations. If craft books are your thing, pinning photos of your projects would make good sense.

But what about those of us who write fiction? It’s not like we can post a pic of our main character…unless someone’s drawing a graphic novel version of your book.

Not so fast, though. As I’ve been plugging away at a revision of my novel, I keep asking myself if I’m doing a good job of translating the internal picture I have of the settings for my book to my reader. Will they see what I see? I often marvel at how some authors can so easily give a tangible feel to the environments they create, citing little details here and there that bring the story to life without weighing it down with endless descriptions. I’m currently reading the Game of Thrones series, and Martin does a marvelous job of that. So much so that I’m not terribly anxious to see HBO’s rendition of the books. He’s already created a movie for me in my head.

Today’s Writing Exercise:

One method I use for adding depth and clarity to the look and feel of the worlds I write about in my stories is to create a visual dictionary of sorts. Back in the day, I’d do this with magazines or library research. But now, hello Google and Flickr…and yes, Pinterest, too. It’s so easy to use online images to help you fill in those missing details, to transform what might be a dreamy landscape into a place you can touch and feel.

Don't bother me, I'm pinningFor today’s exercise, you don’t have to have a Pinterest account, but it wouldn’t hurt. Revisit a scene in your book story where you feel that your descriptions might be incomplete. Make a list of words to describe this person, place, or thing and feed them into Google Images, Flickr, or some other image aggregating tool. If you have Pinterest account, create a special pinboard for this element of your story and add to it the images you collect.

Then, take a step back and marvel at your masterpiece for a few minutes. Try to soak in all the images at once. Then close your eyes. What do you see? Which details stand out? Which were one you hadn’t thought of before? Which could add a pulse to your descriptions?

The next step is write a list of every detail that comes to mind from what you saw in your pictures. Don’t forget the other senses, too. How to these things smell, taste, sound, feel? Then go back and circle the ones your reader absolutely needs to know. Add to story.

Post your results below, and feel free to share your Pinterest board, too.

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I already belong to Pinterest and I think it has fabulous uses for writers—and here I would assert all kinds of writers could use it. Think about how well it would serve travel writers, for example. I pinned some great photos last night.

As for the exercise, I think my weakest descriptions come from people. I would love to be able to pin people to my boards and use them. as inspiration, but I don’t want to pin others’ personal pictures. Stock photography, though would still be really useful.

And, visual writing prompts = lots of fun. I have a great Christmas vintage postcard I want to write about. Of course, any period writing could be enhanced with period visuals, because you can describe that sideboard or the elegant men’s operawear with far more accuracy if you can see it. To me, Pinterest would provided a great way to do historical image research without having to make all of those messy, tree-killing copies.


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