While staying in a hotel that was being remodeled, I noticed an exhibit in the lobby that showed samples of the wallpaper, carpet, fabric, paint, and tile the designer had chosen. I had seen similar displays before, but this one included the designer’s ideaboards.
Look carefully at this ideaboard and you will see the photographs the designer used as inspiration for the guestrooms. The colors, patterns, and implied motion in these photographs are cleverly reflected in the fabrics and finishes.
Ideaboards for Writers
Ideaboards also make great tools for writers. Do you want to describe a setting in a way that puts the reader right there? Take photographs of one or more places that can provide inspiration for you as you write. Want to evoke a particular mood? Photograph places that capture it. You can choose the time of day, season of the year, weather conditions, and numbers of (or absence of) people. The color of the light, feel of the air, sense of space, and other aspects will be easier to describe with visual clues.
You can do this without leaving home through Google images (Google a location and then click on “Images” right under the URL bar). Save images you like and either print them out and tack them to an actual board or create a virtual board by inserting them into a Word document. You don’t have to worry about copyright because you will not be using these photos in your book; you’re only using them for inspiration.
Most stores that sell home improvement materials will allow you to take or buy small samples of carpet, paint, wallpaper, and tile, which you can add to your board. These will provide tactile inspiration as well as visual inspiration. Thrift stores can be great sources for clothing and fabric samples.
If you do it discreetly (or use Google images), you can also use photographs of people to inspire characters and character attributes such as dress, gestures, posture, mannerisms, or gait. Images of people in their environments (at home, at work, with friends, or with family) can be particularly rich sources.
You may want to create an ideaboard for each main character. Post not only images and objects that describe the character, but also things the character might like. This will help you get a feel for the personality and backstory. What books would be on your character’s nightstand? What items might he or she collect? What objects hold special meaning? What are the character’s secret indulgences, obsessions, or fears?
Ideaboards can be especially valuable for historical fiction. Old photographs, newspaper and magazines, playbills, sheet music, advertisements, and menus can provide inspiration, but also consider objects of daily life such as kitchen items, watches and jewelry, toys, hats, grooming items, suitcases, and games. Look for inspirational objects in antique stores, thrift shops, and flea markets. Check museum, archive, and government sites for useful photos, maps, and documents.
Online sources for images are nearly limitless. Pinterest, Etsy, and stock photo sources are just some of the options. Imagery from mythology, Native American or other cultural sources, and symbolism from religious or cult groups may be useful for some projects.
Ideaboards are fun to make and can evolve with your writing project. If they don’t become a distraction or an excuse for not writing, ideaboards can be well worth the time they take to create. Try one and see if it inspires you and provides a source of energy and excitement that helps keep you writing.
Have an ideaboard you’d like to share? Take a photo and send it here, with a brief description of your project.