Building a Chronological Storyboard with Pinterest

As you might already know if you follow my weekly blog posts, I was supposed to start writing my second novel this month but was having trouble getting started. I just didn’t know where to begin. That’s when I came across Cait @ Paper Fury’s informative (and hilarious) blog post, How To Create An Aesthetic Pinterest Storyboard for Your Novel. Now I had never really used Pinterest in any serious kind of fashion. I thought Pinterest was mostly just for crafty people to show off how good they are at making crafty stuff (and wedding planning), but apparently, Pinterest can be used for a wide variety of purposes, including novel planning. Who knew? I didn’t!

You should stop by Cait’s blog and definitely give the post I linked to a read. She does a great job of walking you through how to create a stunning Pinterest board for your novel that will be the envy of aesthetically-inclined Pinterest users everywhere. I plan to try to create an aesthetic board for The Heaven Corporation using her tips.

For my current work in progress, though (which I’ve tentatively titled Wanderer but keep calling Heaven Corp 2 in my head), I found that trying to stick with an aesthetic look wasn’t really helping me do what I wanted to do. How could I find visually matching pins for a book I didn’t know much about, yet? To top it off, the settings in my book are vastly different from each other. The characters go from post-apocalyptic urban landscapes to modern office environments, to quaint little apartments, to luxurious penthouses, to a puppet theatre run by the devil (it will all make sense when you read the book, I promise). There was no way I could possibly find matching pins for all of those settings and I needed pins for those settings because like Cait mentions in her blog post, Pinterest is great for making up for a lack of imagination. If I can’t see something, I can’t describe it.

That’s when I switched tactics. I stopped looking for visually matching pins and started looking for pins that either described a setting, gave insight into a character’s looks or mindset, or represented a plot point in the story. In essence, I was creating a chronological storyboard of events for the book. That was when I started having much more success with planning out the book, so I’m going to break down my method.

Start with the Setting

I knew where I wanted the first scene of the book to start, so I focused my search on that. I just used Pinterest’s search function to bring up pins related to my search queries. I ended up with a few pins for my board that helped me visualise where exactly I wanted my characters to be in that first scene and how they should interact with their environment. One or two pins for each setting is really all you need, I think. I tried pinning more pins for variety but it just ended up confusing my vision of what the scene should look like. Keep it focused. You can fill in any blank spots in the setting as long as you have one or two really good pins to draw inspiration from for your scenes.

Move on to Characters

In my novel, the characters get a drastic change in wardrobe from the previous book, so I needed a few pins to use as a reference point for what they would be wearing. Again, keep things focused. You only need one or two pins per character to get an idea of what they look like and what their dress style is. Don’t litter your whole board with fashion pins (unless you’re writing a book on fashion, in which case, that would be entirely appropriate). This is a storyboard, remember, so don’t let settings and wardrobes distract from the story.

Don’t forget the characters’ internal struggles, either. If the character is wrestling with guilt, unrequited love, right vs. wrong, addiction or some kind of mental disorder, this needs to be represented in the storyboard at points where these struggles are going to bubble up to the surface. Pinterest is full of artwork and quotes that describe human suffering of all sorts.

Plotting the Plot

This was really the meat of what I wanted to develop. I had a vague idea of what this book would focus on, but my usual style is to just start writing with a basic premise and see what the characters end up doing. Planning is not my strong suit. I’ve never done a storyboard in my life. I cannot for the life of me plan out what’s going to happen in my book before I’ve started writing it because the characters haven’t had a chance to pull me in a certain direction yet. This was where all of my struggles with starting the next book were stemming from and Pinterest helped me get past that hurdle. It’s amazing how simply looking at pictures on Pinterest can act as creative fuel. The plethora of visuals would spark ideas and those ideas would lead me to more Pinterest searches and those searches would blossom into more ideas. It’s like brainstorming in turbo mode and I recommend it to anyone who’s feeling like their head is an empty chasm of tumbleweed and cricket noises. I still don’t have the entire book planned out but that’s okay. I ended up with enough material to start and I’m sure when I need to stop and plan some more, Pinterest will be a huge help in stoking the fires of inspiration.

Just a side note here that when it comes to illustrating plot points with Pinterest, you need to go a little more symbolic. You’re never going to find a pin of people who look exactly like your characters doing exactly what you envision in the exact setting that you need. It’s just not going to happen. Instead, find pins that loosely represent a significant plot point. For example, in my novel, Raffi likes to express his affection for his best friend Jacqueline by kissing her on the forehead. I wouldn’t be able to find two people who looked exactly like Jacqueline and Raffi, but that’s okay. I didn’t need to. All I needed was a pin of a man kissing a woman on the forehead to illustrate the relationship between my characters. Don’t pull your hair out looking for specifics. A pin that reminds you of that plot point is all you need.

Inspiration Outside of Pinterest? No Problem!

Sometimes you’ll be surfing the net and all of a sudden, you’ll stumble across the perfect picture for one of your characters or a random image will fill you with inspiration for a scene you’d been struggling to write. You can add these to your storyboard, too! The easiest (and most considerate) way of doing this is by installing the Pin It add-on for your browser and using that to pin the image to your board. Pinning things to Pinterest using the add-on will retain the original source information so people who find your pin on Pinterest will know exactly where you got it from and who the original photographer/artist is. Never download and reupload images to Pinterest without providing the source information. Luckily, the add-on saves you the hassle of reuploading and automatically fills in the source information for you with no extra work on your part.

But Beware!

While Pinterest is great for providing an overwhelmed author with inspiration, there are a few things about it that can be a downright nuisance for an author, especially if you are trying to use a Pinterest board as a chronological storyboard of events for your next book.

For one thing, Pinterest isn’t so great at organising pins within a single board. In fact, it’s quite difficult to even figure out how to rearrange pins on a single board in the first place. Pinterest puts your most recent pins at the top of your board by default, which means if you want to create a chronological storyboard for your novel, you’re going to have to make sure that you are deliberately pinning everything in order from the beginning of your book to the end (which would mean your storyboard would start at the bottom of your board and go upwards). This is, of course, ridiculous. Our minds don’t work like that, and what if we find the perfect pin to go right in the middle of our book after the fact?

This is where you’re going to need to know how to move pins around on a single Pinterest board.

  • Click on your board, then click on the little icon of four arrows pointing in different directions (it’s right next to the pencil icon).
  • You’ll see little check boxes appear on all your pins in that board and new options at the top of the board; Move, Copy, Delete.
  • Select all the pins you want to rearrange, then select Move.
  • A menu will appear asking you to pick a new board for those pins. We don’t want to move the pins to a different board. We just want to rearrange them on the current board, so select the board your pin is already on and click Move.
  • This will move all those pins to the top of the board.

As you can imagine, even this is not exactly an ideal method of rearranging pins on a board. You’re going to have to select and move your pins with great strategic care in order to get them where you want them, but this is Pinterest’s only method of rearranging pins on a single board right now. We just have to work with the limitations as best we can.

One more thing to be aware of with Pinterest. If you’re worried that your storyboard has too many spoilers or if you don’t want some other writer to come along and take your ideas for their own, it’s best to make your board secret. No one except you and specific people you invite to see the board will be able to see your board. I have my latest storyboard as a secret board because the descriptions I’ve added for some of the pins give away some very spoilery information that I don’t want readers to know about before the book is even released.

So how’s my own book coming along now that I’ve started using Pinterest to help me plan? Well, I’m about three thousand words into the first draft when a couple days ago, I hadn’t even started, so I think those results speak for themselves.

If you’d like to follow me on Pinterest, you can find me right here. Oh, and don’t forget to pay a visit to Paper Fury. Cait was the original inspiration for this entire post, after all, and her advice on creating a different kind of book board might prove to be even more helpful to you than mine.

Copyright © 2017 A.A. Frias.

4 thoughts on “Building a Chronological Storyboard with Pinterest

  1. My word, this is perfect advice for my writing group – we’re all Pinterest addicts and I think they’d all find Pinterest boards for their books useful:) Also, your boards look fantastic. Thanks for the advice!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad I could help, but I can’t take all the credit. I wouldn’t have even thought to use Pinterest for my books at all were it not for Cait’s blog post. Definitely check out her blog. She’s hilarious and extremely helpful. Thanks so much for the comment! It’s nice to know my blog is helping people.


  2. Oh thanks for linking to my post !! ❤ And this is an amazing way to plot your novel!! It sounds like a lot of work too, hehe, so I really admire you for going through it all chronologically and really using it as a plotting method! I tend to strictly stick to aesthetics, as you know, haha.😂 But the best thing about pinterset is there's SO many ways to use it! And whatever way works for a specific writer is the most excellent way for them to be doing it. 😉 I loved reading about how you set up your boards!

    Liked by 1 person

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