EWTF preview series: on visual inspiration

Today, we’re going to talk about visual pinboarding!

Using Pinterest:

Authors have been saving picture pinboards for much longer than Pinterest has been around, though I will say Pinterest makes things easier. (Ethically I have doubts about its fairness, but you know, it’s so USEFUL! I showcase these photos with the utmost respect and admiration for the photographers who took them.)

peek at my EWTF pins!
(click on the picture to visit my EWTF Pinterest board!)

Also be warned that there are visual inspirations for the characters over there too, which I thought I’d note, because I know some people don’t like to have that idea in their head as they’re reading. There will also be Sim versions of some of my novel characters down below, so if you’re the type who doesn’t like to see that kind of thing, I’m giving you that warning now. 😉

So feel free to click through and take a peek at my Pinterest board for EWTF. A lot of authors I know use models and film stars for their visual inspirations, but I tend to use musicians. I find they look more like real people, in a GOOD way! In romance, I suppose it makes sense to use a strapping, rippling, hulk of a man for inspiration, but in literary/comedy, most of them are not very strapping. (Except Corbin, lol!)

But like models and film stars, musicians often have LOTS of pictures available, in different outfits, poses, facial expressions, settings, or whatever, so you can build yourself a nice, stalkerish collection of them! 😀

Using Sims!:

Okay, so I’m going to show my inner dork here for a minute, lol! Most authors do NOT go to these kind of lengths to visualize their stories, but given that I actually tell illustrated stories with Sims from time to time, it seems only natural for me to do this with my novel characters as well.

Amelia and Drew as Sims. Amelia is a yoga fan, and Drew is the bookish type.

I have to be honest. The very first draft of this particular story was fully illustrated with Sims at one point (that draft has since been removed from my blogs, and hidden in a place where very few will know how to find it, lol!). But the point is, I happen to have a LOT of Sim pictures of some of these characters. And I spent an unbelievable amount of time decorating Sim Amelia’s house… mostly just because it was fun to do, but you know, useful as well!


This is functional, of course. When you have a real, 3D version of your character or setting in front of you, it helps you visualize the scene. For example, if Amelia was going to walk from her kitchen to the front door, what rooms would she pass through? Or if a certain two characters were at home on a Saturday afternoon, what would they be doing? What clothes might they be wearing? How much time do they have before they need to be at work again?

What does Jodie look like standing outside in the snow at night?

What does Piper look like when she’s getting fired from her job?

Okay, most of the time, Sims are just ridiculous. But you know, they’re fun to play with too! lol!

I’ll also sometimes make Sims out of just about any of my characters, even if I have no intentions of ever telling an illustrated story with them. It can really help me to not just imagine what they’d look like, but actually SEE them. And in setting the scene, it forces me to notice the details in it.

And this home layout is not one I used for EWTF, but just sharing it as an example of how it might help to see a 3D representation of one of your imaginary story sets.

These pictures are all using Sims 2, though I’ve grown quite fond of Sims 3 as well. And silly as it may seem, any of the Sims games can make for a wonderful writing tool, besides just being a fun game to play in itself! 🙂


Character Mosaics:

This is a trick I brought over from my web serial writing and learned from some very talented ladies, my friends Gayl and Beth. I love these, because it allows you to visually *feel* a character through a series of questions and answers which are very revealing in visual form. You can use as many or as little as you like, but we tend to use twelve. I’ve seen people use all sorts of questions for these, but the ones I use are:

1: mood:
2: grew up: (elaborate on the circumstances of the character’s childhood)
3: favorite food:
4: favorite color:
5: favorite weather:
6. favorite drink:
7. currently reading:
8. most important job: (not always what they do for a living, more like their purpose in life)
9. if he/she had one wish:
10. thing he/she loves most in the world: (is not allowed to be a specific person)
11. one word to describe him/her:
12. something else: (bonus)

The images we “borrow” can be from anywhere on the internet where you can find their direct link. (I like Flickr!) Then you go to BigHugeLabs.com to make the mosaic.

I only do these for my main POV characters in each book, because to be honest, they are very time-consuming to make. But just looking at them helps me know what it feels like to be inside their head. It helps me think outside the box of my own head and thoughts, and think from their POV instead. You’ve already “met” the main characters from EWTF for a couple of chapters here, but I’d like to show you – if you could see inside a character’s soul, if you could scan the images inside their mind, this is what they’d look like.

Jodie Larsen:

character mosaic: Jodie

1. mood: grumpy
2. grew up: with her big brother
3. favorite food: shrimp
4. favorite color: gray
5. favorite weather: none, prefers air-conditioning
6. favorite drink: dry martini
7. currently reading: trashy magazines
8. most important job: doctor
9. if she had one wish: to be left alone
10. thing she loves most in the world: sleeping in
11. one word to describe her: prickly
12. something else: she’s trying

[mosaic credits:]
1. Tommy the grumpy, 2. A pair , 3. Fresh Shrimp, 4. Untitled, 5. air conditioning fan, 6. very dry, 7. Magazines, 8. Untitled, 9. Blase, 10. Nightmares…, 11. Prickly aloe plant, 12. Rock Heart

Amelia Bradshaw:

character mosaic: Amelia

1. mood: stubbornly hopeful
2. grew up: in the picture perfect family
3. favorite food: eggs florentine
4. favorite color: green and gold
5. favorite weather: crunchy fall leaves
6. favorite drink: pinot noir
7. currently reading: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
8. most important job: accountant
9. if she had one wish: peace of mind
10. thing she loves most in the world: cuddles on the couch
11. one word to describe her: cautious
12. something else: sees the world through fractures

[mosaic credits:]
1. Fragile, 2. 11/365 01/11/09, 3. Maui Day 6: Eggs Florentine, 4. After a Summer Shower, 5. I PUT SOME NEW SHOES ON AND SUDDENLY EVERYTHING’S RIGHT., 6. red, red, bokeh, goes to my head, 7. Eat Pray Love, 8. Stimulus Package, 9. Inner Peace, 10. Untitled, 11. Caution! Be Careful – S3isCaution, 12. Cracked tempered glass in the fall

Drew Weston:

character mosaic: Drew

1. mood: fine
2. grew up: the odd one out
3. favorite food: dessert
4. favorite color: all shades of blue
5. favorite weather: the first snow flurries
6. favorite drink: water to swallow some headache pills for his hangover
7. currently reading: The New Yorker
8. most important job: fixing things
9. if he had one wish: to have a family of his own
10. thing he loves most in the world: freckles on a redhead
11. one word to describe him: charming
12. something else: often misunderstood

[mosaic credits]
1. Untitled, 2. Outcast, 3. torte, 4. Katiet Mentawai, 5. Edinburgh, Scotland, 6. Day -14, 7. The New Yorker, 8. [52/365], 9. (It’s got to be) Perfect!, 10. 365.217, 11. bed of roses II, 12. taped mouth

So there you go, friends! Hope it’s been useful! And please feel free to share your favorite tricks for visualizing your stories too! 🙂

One thought on “EWTF preview series: on visual inspiration

  1. Oh, that poor little egg in Drew’s mosaic! Who knew a face drawn on with Sharpie could emote so well?

    And I really love your EWTF board. I usually end up looking at your pins and thinking “yes! Amelia would totally wear that” or “yeah, he looks like a perfect Drew!”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *