I’m finishing my first draft of my novel We Fall Down, which means I’m getting ready to outline, timeline, and tear down/rebuild my characters as I fix/change the plot.
A massive thing that I’ve found helpful is creating lookbooks on Pinterest: this was actually something I learned in one of my film classes and it’s been really fun to experiment with them in writing.
Lookbooks are not the same as aesthetic boards, they’re not based around particular emotions or a theme but rather the complex person/people/worlds you have in your movie, or in this case, story.
So, you may ask, what exactly is a lookbook?
It’s a much more effective way of character/world building for those of us more visual people.
I have a lookbook for every main character in my novel: We Fall Down. Each look book or designated Pinterest board breaks down every part of who my character is, there are tiny subplots, main plots, emotions, how my character dress, etc.
I love the idea behind those super detailed character questionnaires but I don’t have the time nor the energy to actually go through them. Most of the time also, they’re full of useless stuff that I don’t need because every single character and their parts of the story is different.
Lookbooks are unique to every character, writer, and story. So all those photos or quotes you see around the internet and you think: ‘that is exactly how my character feels on page 20, paragraph 2 when Jake tells her he loves her’, put those into your lookbook.
It’s like a scrapbook of all the emotions your character has felt and what you want to convey to your audience. My character Deborah is part of a rebel group that has conditioned her to be an assassin, like her mother. They’re in the beginning paragraphs of a civil war. She’s struggling with deaths of friends and betrayals of friends on the other side of the fight.
I also include art/pictures that hold certain features that I see in her. Like one picture shows the pain her eyes, another is how she may dress in a certain scene. They’re all things my audience will never see but they help me bring her to life on paper and in my mind and it helps me to remember small details that can easily get lost in my mind and imagination.
Because of lookbooks…
- my characters have more complex emotional responses to situations, making them more relatable.
- my characters have bigger, more vibrant personalities full of little quirks and odd bits of humor and grief.
- I understand how my character thinks mentally
- my story is full of all those neat little twists, thoughts, and images that Tumblr likes to pull out of thin air.
I encourage you to try out your own lookbooks.