Using Pinterest and Imgur to build character profiles

in Writing on Mar 3rd, 2020 | 4 minute read

I don’t know how Dickens, Wells or Lovecraft researched their characters, all I know is that these days the Internet makes things very very easy for authors. If you know where to look.

Yana by CBYN Deviant Art The main inspiration for my main character Kyira

Pinterest’s most underrated feature

The USP (unique selling point) of Pinterest is quite obvious: it’s a digital pinboard for the internet — a rabbit warren of pins and images where time has no meaning. You save all of your pins into boards that you can name as you wish making them absolutely perfect for character mood boards.

More like this

For a writer though, the most amazing part of Pinterest is the way it connects hundreds of millions of images, and the algorithms used to do it are out of this world sophisticated. More like this is an underrated feature that is extremely helpful when building out character boards, because it only takes one image to suddenly bring that mish-mash of character traits swirling around your head into a crystallised character. So the more relevant images you see the more likely you are to find the one. It also happens by default whenever you click on an image (or pin as it were).

The main image of this post is the image the one that did it for me, when I was searching for inspiration on one of my main characters, Kyira. (You can see it with the other Kyiras in the Pinterest board screenshot below).

A screenshot of my Kyira Pinterest board

As a result of More like this the Pinterest boards I’ve collated have rich variation, but ultimately stem from a single original image. All of these images gave me a better understanding of Kyira, so when I was writing her I was able to see her stoic expression as her father spoke ill of her brother of her skepticism teaching Conor about how to ask for food in the village of Makril (These are scenes in my book by the way!). The inspiration came so easily I began questioning how good the writing was. It was good though, and Kyira remains a firm favourite of my editor and my beta readers.

Profiling is all well and good, but what about that initial spark? Where does that flash of inspiration begin?

The chaotic brilliance of Imgur

Everyone has that friend. The one who is just a little abnormal. They have. phone filled with memes, and they often laugh at absolutely nothing (if you can’t think of who that person is in your life, then chances are it’s you.)

In any case, that person probably frequents Imgur. For those unfamiliar with its ways, Imgur (pronounced Imager) is an image platform often used for hosting the images seen on the content platform Reddit. Reddit’s motto is “The front page of the internet” and it is exactly that. With it’s huge audience, Reddit prides itself on being the first to know everything that’s happening in the world and it usually does it in an unbiased way, making it very popular as a source of news. Why am I talking about Reddit? Well, Imgur and Reddit are best pals. Let me explain.

Every piece of OC: that funny cat image, that video of the person falling over or one of those hilarious Trumpisms most likely originated from Imgur and Reddit, so much so that when those funny videos and images finally make their way to Facebook it’s usually a good 24-48 hours after they were first posted, which in Internet time is around 3 or 4 THOUSAND years.

What is OC?

Orange County? No. OC stands for Original Content, that is people making things and posting them. As a writer you probably already understand how important OC is. It is the bedrock of the internet. We need new creative content as we need air.

Imgur is not just memes

Memes are a condensed (and highly entertaining) version of OC that makes up a lot of Imgur, however it is not always memes. You’ll regularly come across the sort of inspiration that the authors of old would have killed to see. Things like these:

Majestic storm
When the disarm is *just* right (Warning: NSFW)
When sailing Tall Ships, you do it because it has to get done

Both Pinterest and Imgur provide really great ways of cataloging these finds too. In Pinterest they’re called Pinboards, on Imgur you can save gifs, movies, images to folders ready to be revisited at a moment’s notice when you need inspiration on something you have zero experience with like a nuclear expert diagramming how fission differs from fusion, or the catalogued adventures of storm chasers, or a movie of two elephants battling, or…

Bright, fresh, new, never-seen-before content available quickly, easily and for absolutely no cost from experts in the field. Imgur is a treasure trove of ideas just waiting to be discovered. Both Pinterest and Imgur have both provided with so much inspiration and raw material for my book that it was impossible not to have written an article with some examples.

That said. Sooner or later I had to begin actually committing words to paper.

Thanks for reading!

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