How Pinterest Inspired My Novel

Long before I became a UX Designer & User Researcher, I was a writer. As a child, I would write embarrassingly long narratives about imaginary worlds. Adolescent me would create dramatic stories about love and loss (mainly loss since I knew very little about love).

Post college, as a news reporter, my writings were short, concise and rarely emotional. Like many writers, with each writing season came a different means of inspiration. As a child it was my backyard, which seemed magical in my imagination. As a teenager, it was usually some angsty song (ahem, “Tearing Up My Heart”). And in the newsroom, inspiration came in the natural background noise of everyone freaking out.

About a year ago, I began to write a novel based on my time living in the Middle East and the most fascinating discovery has been the tool that’s helped inspire me this time around. It wasn’t an angsty song or magical backyard. It was Pinterest.

As a User Researcher, I’m fascinated with how people use Pinterest in unique ways. Like this account, reuniting owners in Oklahoma with cats they lost during tornados.

Or the Mountain View Police Department’s creative way to reunite people with their lost objects.

Pinterest aims to inspire people to create from their pins. Sometimes the creativity comes in how they use the platform. In my case, I turned to Pinterest to create a visual inspiration board for the characters in my novel.

Before Pinterest, when I created a character, I would draft a rough sketch of the character’s backstory. It worked fine but remained one dimensional.

While the novel I’m writing is inspired by my life, the characters are fiction. They don’t cook the same recipes I love, decorate their homes the same way I decorate mine, or find inspiration in the same places I do.

Any writer creating fictional characters can tell you that removing them from your own self can be a challenge. So I turned to Pinterest out of a desire to create a visual backstory for my characters. I wanted to create a world I could look at and become inspired from…a world that looked quite different from my own.

I decided to create a board for one of the main characters in my book, Kate Mullins. Pinning as Kate pushed me to get into her mindset. “Kate would probably make this crockpot chicken recipe because she doesn’t have time. She’s also distracted with [minor plot in book], so she would just throw something together.”

I began to imagine the meals she would cook, what vacations she would plan, the paint color she would choose for her bathroom renovation. (Take her “Home Sweet Home” board, for example. Now notice how different it is from my a personal decor board.)

Over time, my character evolved from a list of traits on paper. The more I pinned, the more I created a colorful and alive world. And the more I created this world, the more inspired I become in my writings.

A writer’s process can sometimes only make sense to them but the inspiration vehicle Pinterest became for me made so much sense.

I still pin (a lot) as Paige but Pinterest has evolved for me into a creative tool as essential to my writing as my Mac.

I have made boards for other characters and plan on using Pinterest to fuel future pen-to-paper inspiration.

I wonder if Ben Silbermann ever thought Pinterest would be used as a storyboard for the characters and worlds artists create? As a designer, I cannot imagine a better feeling than watching someone use what I’ve created in a way that I myself could never have pictured.

So how have you used Pinterest in a unique, inspirational way?