The Problem with Pinning

Like many writers, I use Pinterest boards to post visuals for my main characters, settings, clothing styles, foods they ate, and on and on.

But here’s my problem:

Where have all the normal-looking people gone?

I love having visuals for my characters, don’t get me wrong. As writers, it’s our job to scope out the beautiful celebs who will doubtless one day star in the movie version of our books. It’s not a hard job, really.

But I wanted to find a visual for a white-haired, grey-eyed older man (by older, I mean in his 70s). I was out of luck. He’s clear as a bell in my mind, but apparently his pic hasn’t hit the Internet yet.

I wanted a pic for one of my Vikings who happens to be bald, with a carrot-red beard. He may not look like a movie star, but he’s definitely integral to my story. Still no luck with that one, either.

And then I find pics of people I want to make into characters, but they haven’t fit into my books yet. People like this:

Felix Baumgartner

Or this:

Kevin McKidd

(A bit Viking-ish, wouldn’t you say?) Here’s a girl I’ll use eventually. 

Rachel Weisz for Bvlgari

Sometimes you’ll find a perfect picture in a magazine, but there’s no way to figure out how to pin it from a literal mag. Then you just have to rip it out and hang onto it for inspiration.

But on the whole, these people seem perfect. They don’t have flaws. And I hate that, because real people have flaws and are still beautiful

More beautiful, in very fact.

I wish my Pinboards could accurately represent my novel characters who live and breathe in my brain. If I had drawing skills, I’d try to sketch them.

Someday, I hope you’ll get your hands on my book, so my characters can walk right out of there, large as life, and move into your head, too.

Till then, I’ll have to stick with Pinterest.

(Here’s the link to my Viking pinboard for God’s Daughter:, if you want to check that out. But you won’t find a pic of Snorri Thorbrandsson–the carrot-bearded, big-hearted warrior Viking who’s obsessed with my main character, Gudrid.)

****How about you? Have any favorite novel-boards you’d like to share? Or inspirational hero/heroine pics you love? Where do you go to find pins of imperfect beauties?****


18 thoughts on “The Problem with Pinning

  1. I'm so glad someone else has this problem too. I have clear pictures of my characters in my mind, but they, too, are ordinary, or ugly, or flawed…Nobody out there in Tinseltown fits the image.When I think about it, though, I don't want to put a real face to my characters because I know that the image my words build in your mind will be different from my own picture. That's the magic of writing – the fiction is as much in the mind of the reader as that of the writer. Put a picture in front of your reader and you take away an important part of the equation.

  2. I actually don't like photographs to hint at what characters are like. It takes all the mystery away from imagining them for ourselves.I love to picture them in my mind, even if my image doesn't match the author's. it doesn't matter. I especially hate reading a book after the movie has come out because then all I can think of when I read the book, is the actor. Not so bad if they are an unknown, but horrible I'd they are someone famous, like Tom Cruise.

  3. I get sucked into pinterest 🙂 All those pretty heroes hanging out just waiting to get their story written 😉 I used to tear out magazines and my favorite pictures were when pros walked down the street and picked out "every day girls" to talk beauty tricks. There were some great faces–lovely but with some unique features that really made for a great character 🙂

  4. I know that section you're talking about, Joanne–I loved that, too! Or even the "what not to wear" people! And Graeme–I totally get you on the movies. How many movies have ruined the book's description of characters (Percy Jackson for sure)? And Botanist, you're so right…our reader's minds will fill in those details, even more than a picture could. For some books, though, I like to have a picture first. For some reason, my FINN character looks just like the Finn on my board (Michael Fassbender)in my mind. I hate how hard it is to find pics of bearded dudes!

  5. I am really visual. I love pinterest. I wish you could take some the beauty and mess it up a little. I guess they can just be template and we'll have to imagine and write it to reality:) But I do find such inspiration through images.

  6. Love the Kevin McKidd shot. And just a thought…scope out other less glamorous sites on the net and you might find what you're looking for. In the mean time, I'll be looking for your carrot top!

  7. I share your pain, Heather. Like you, I search for pictures of people who look REAL–like you said, beautiful by flawed. But then, I get wowed by pictures of the gorgeous celebs and end up pinning them. :-/

  8. I usually google what I'm looking for. I have a few boards. I haven't set one up for this new book. I think you should spell your characters names phonetically beside their actual spelled name! I know I'm reading them wrong!! 🙂 Your red haired man definitely has the Viking look going on! Good job!

  9. Agh, now I can't figure out how to pin the pics from gmail! And Snorri is pretty much pronounced how it looks, give or take some Nordic gutteral inflections, Jessica! I just think of Leif as "leaf" (not entirely accurate) and Gudrid is just like how it looks, too. I actually changed/shortened names to make them easier, like Thorfinn (Finn).

  10. Pinterest is soooo electic. Never know what I'm going to run across there, as far as people and places and things … It's an imagineer's delight.As a writer, I'm using it … sort of.

  11. Yes, Sarah, that's a great idea. I love those vintage pics. (People often looked real, not smiley like Sears Studio pics). Also, Lindsay, I was hesitant to try it, too…but I'm glad I did. It's easy to flip over there for quick visuals when writing. And Beth–I know, sometimes Pinterest can pull up some weird pics! But it is fun.

  12. I agree 100%, Heather. I haven't joined Pinterest, but I've browsed the site only to find clones of perfect people. I have better luck finding pictures of "real" people in the local section of our newspaper.

  13. Oh my gosh, Heather! I totally agree. And when I just do a random "nice-looking guys age 30-40"… well, you can just imagine what pops up! The WWW is a danger-zone!I just started posting on Pinterest and it's always funny the comments I get about my characters. Too pretty, too polished, not chubby enough, too manly (for a woman), too photo-shopped….. I wonder if it's such a good thing after-all.But I love seeing other people's ideas of their characters.So I'm basically rambling in agreement with you. For now, there's Pinterest. Yay!Hugs,Becky

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s