Fantasy Writer’s Tools: Using Pinterest for Story Concepts and Ideas

Pinterest is evil, and you should stay away from it the same as if you see a fairy ring of mushrooms out in the woods: do not step into it.

Like spending a night in Faerie only come back to the normal world seven years later, Pinterest sucks away your precious, precious time. Time which you could’ve spent writing, or feeding yourself, or writing, or getting some vitamin D, or, maybe writing.

But you should use it, anyway. Here’s why.

Pinterest is a Tangible Tool for Daydreaming

Daydreaming for a writer is quality self-time. It’s work that doesn’t seem like work. Without daydreaming, you don’t come up with ideas, and without ideas, you can’t write stories. There’s a strong connection between all forms of media when it comes to fantasy that other story genres don’t enjoy. Ever heard of mystery art? Me, neither. There are not masses of people devoted to the artwork of the mystery genre.

Fantasy art, however, is definitely a Thing.

I decided to ask the folks of a writers group I belong to on Facebook, the Indie Author Group, how they use Pinterest. They were using it in ways I hadn’t thought of and now I can’t wait to try some of their methods. Not everything below comes from me.

Pinterest as a Catalog of Visual Detail and Reference

One way to use Pinterest that a couple folks in the Indie Author Group mentioned was as a visual reference. This strikes me as an excellently sensible way to use Pinterest as a writer of any stripe, not just as a fantasy writer. Let’s use an example. You have a character in your story who’s a blacksmith and he has a forge. What does a forge look like? We’ve all seen pictures and movies and played fantasy MMOs. Forges have a big fire, an anvil, a water trough, and…


Oh, shit. Have no idea.

A quick search on Pinterest for forge turns up a lot of really cool stuff. Pictures you can use to describe a forge in a more living, visceral way. Sure, you could also do a Google image search, and you probably should, but what’s so great about Pinterest is the serendipity and the discovery of related things (which is also the hypnotic time-sink about which you must be careful or you’ll blow your whole afternoon).

Over a decade ago, in one of the most important books ever written about the coming internet age, it was stated that hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. In other words, links–especially related links–hamper linearity and encourage tangents.

If you need to write about a location to which you’ve never been, you can not only search for it on Pinterest by its name, but also by mood and other descriptors (twilight, foggy, rainy, crowded, etc.).

You can search for anything you want, and not only find it, but find all kinds of cool related shit, too. And possibly find new boards and people to follow as well for future discoveries.

In my current novel, one of my characters is a gothy red-haired woman with some curves on her (and who also suffers from an unknown disability). So I search for redhead, curvy, and goth. Naturally, I get a million pictures of Christina Hendricks.

Not that Christina Hendricks is ever a bad thing, but she’s not what I had in mind.

I modified my search by taking out the keyword curvy and got much better results, at least for hair. This is also the part where I realize I had no idea what kind of hairstyles I was looking at, and that if I was going to be a decent writer I would have to know these things in order to write about them in a way that wouldn’t make women want to throw my own books at my face. To that end, I found this guide to women’s hairstyles of the last 100 years. You’re welcome.

Inspiration for Marley, one of the main characters in my current WIP.

Organizing Your Boards

From the discussion I had in the author’s group, what a couple of them do is create a secret board for each book they write. I considered making several boards for my novel: one for characters, one for places, and one for objects such as weapons or furniture. Over-organizing would probably end up being more of a pain in the ass than any real help because I’d be clicking too much to navigate my material.  Pinterest doesn’t let you made “sub-boards.” In other words, they’re not like folders. In the end, I only made one secret board for my current WIP.

Important: if you want a board to be secret, you have to create it as a secret board from the start. You cannot change a public board into a secret one.

And, in case you’re wondering, the answer is no, of course I didn’t find this out the hard way.

How to make a secret board

  1. Log into Pinterest
  2. Click on your name at the top right
  3. Scroll to the bottom of your profile
  4. Click the little plus button and choose to create a secret board

Random Uses and Thoughts

One person in my writer’s group uses Pinterest as inspiration for flash fiction, which sounds like a fun thing to do.

You can upload your own images to Pinterest. So if you have real objects or people around you that are inspiration or references for your story, you can’t exactly take them with you when you haul your laptop to the coffeeshop. But you can upload them to Pinterest and put them in your secret boards and now your reference photos will always be with you.

If you like to draw maps of your fantasy worlds by hand, you can scan them and upload them to Pinterest. Why upload them to Pinterest? To have a back up copy, to have it with everything else in place you can access regardless of what device you’re using, and finally so that you can share it with your readers should you wish.

Board, yet?

You’re just here for the laughs, I know.

My question to you is: how have you been using Pinterest as a writer? Any other inspiration/reference tools you want to share that might be better or suit a different sensibility? Share with us in the comments below.


One thought on “Fantasy Writer’s Tools: Using Pinterest for Story Concepts and Ideas

  1. Pingback: 12 Things I’ve Learned Writing the First Draft of My First Fantasy Novel | The Fantasist

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