How to Use Pinterest to Supercharge Your Descriptions

Using Pinterest To Supercharge Your Writing


The Author’s Secret Weapon…

For a long time, authors have used photographs to improve their writing. It’s much easier to imagine the mannerisms and expressions of people in pictures than it is to invent a dozen people entirely from scratch without overlap. Places come alive from photographs in the same way, although they tend to be even better when based on a real place the author has been.



In the dark ages, writers used to cut pictures out of magazines and keep them in a binder, referring to them often enough that they could remember each picture. But since the internet, there are many, many easier ways to maintain a library of inspirational photographs. Of course, since the internet, there are many different options, but today, I’m going to tell you about Pinterest.


What Pinterest Is

Pinterest is a semi-social networking platform where people collect and trade pictures. They are often difficult to trace to their sources, and their legality is… questionable, but the system is undeniably useful. You can follow other users, or just their boards, and you will tend to find a group of people with similar tastes and interests to yours.

You can keep up to 500 characters worth of notes on each picture, but I typically don’t bother. Be aware that there are no privacy settings, so if you want to keep your inspirations private, you’re better off with another service, like Springpad or Evernote.

Also, if you have or are recovering from an eating disorder, you should be aware that Pinterest is full of sketchy thinspiration, and that people you followed for their cool nature pictures will periodically cover your internet with quotes like “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” and pictures of people who might be mistaken for tree branches. If you don’t want to see that stuff randomly, don’t follow people, only follow the boards you find interesting.


My Boards And How I Use Them


My Scenery board is my favorite. I collect pictures of beautiful and strange landscapes, rooms, and houses. Most people keep inside and outside pictures separate, but I don’t feel any need to do that. I like to find them all in the same place.



I also collect pictures of people. It can be tough to find interesting people on Pinterest, because the “People” category tends to be swamped with the same celebrities. If you’re persistent, though, you can find people who are pinning people who look like they have interesting stories.

I also have a board of fantasy artwork that I typically use only for people.



When I write a fantasy novel, I like to describe the flora and fauna in great detail, and I like to make them seem bizarre and otherworldly. Turns out that you can actually do that from photographs, because plants and animals on earth are pretty weird already. Also, there are plenty of people out there making digitally altered photographs out of animals, and those are pretty cool as well.



My fashion board tends to flip back and forth between being the fashions of the world I’m making, things I actually want to wear, things I want to make, and things I would wear to LARP. That said, I love to read books where people’s clothing is described in exquisite detail, so I keep this board around in case I ever feel like doing that.


Pictures that Make Me Curious

I have two boards dedicated to pictures that make me wonder. One for real life pictures, usually but not always black and white, and one for art and illustration. I also have a board I call “Inspiration,” which is where I put things I don’t know what to do with. It tends to have a combination of weird things and cool color combinations.


Boards For Specific Projects

I feel that Pinterest is at its most powerful when I make specific boards for specific projects. I don’t use this exclusively for writing.

Beautiful Dreamer is the working title of the fantasy novel I’m working on (I promise to think of a better one someday). On this board, I have pictures for all of the main characters, at least three main locations and some of the spaces between them, what magic springs look like, and a couple of pictures of the predominant fashions of the time.

The Palettes, We Watched the Rain, The Menagerie, Specimen Boxes, and Yggdrasil, are for mixed media art projects, not writing. The only exception is the Menagerie, which I use for both. It also serves as inspiration for my demonology novellas.


Other Boards

For some reason, I feel the need to be complete, so let me say that I have a bunch of other boards that really have nothing to do with my writing.


What are you waiting for?

Yes, Pinterest can be a terrible timesink. But once the initial obsession died down, I have found it to be an excellent way to use (timed) five minute breaks, and I have certainly found it to improve my writing intensely.

If you need an invite, leave a comment, and I’ll happily send one your way.

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