Visual Inspiration

I’m a visual learner. I am the kind of person who used to be able to picture charts and images on a test from my notes. I didn’t learn how to use that to my advantage until well into my college career, though.

Now, I use visuals to get inspiration whenever I need a story idea or something to just break me out of my writer’s block and spark something new to keep the words flowing. Today, I’m sharing a few ways that I have found images that get my creativity flowing.


This seems like a given for referencing image-based inspiration, but I thought I’d add it here anyways because I’ve learned so much in the past few months about how to be a bit more choosy about what I pin as inspiration and how I organize it to avoid having thousands of images that don’t actually help me because there are just too many to look through.

  • Organize images by story/novel/project to keep it cohesive
  • Cull images that no longer function for your story so your brain and board have more room for what inspires you
  • Going down the “related” bunny hole is fun, but not great when you find something you like and then the feed refreshes and you’ve lost the trail – long story short, pin what you like when you see it or see that it leads to things that you like, you can always come back to it and organize it

Here is an example from my YA fantasy novel board on Pinterest.

Encyclopedias/Reference Books

It is so funny to think about the row of encyclopedias that my family used to have and use to write school essays and reference in the days before the internet, or at least before it became what it is today. But if you go to your local library (or even look at encyclopedia type sites online), you can find a TON of resources for visual inspiration.

What I like the most about encyclopedias or reference books (especially the Atlas Obscura), is that you don’t have to have an idea of what you are looking for ahead of time. You can simply pick a page and go. With the internet, you usually have to have some sort of direction, so when I really don’t have one, I love the randomness of an encyclopedia. I especially love visual and illustrated encyclopedias because they have more images than a traditional one.

Picking a random page in the Atlas Obscura always gives me so many ideas to work with.

Tarot cards

I recently posted on Instagram about using tarot cards as imagery-based inspiration. I absolutely love the beauty and detail that is put into each card, but taking it a step further, you can actually use the meaning and representations that are put into each card’s meaning to help you decide what twist your plot needs or how to bring in something so that your characters suddenly have something to interact with that helps them.

These are three cards that have such rich imagery that I can’t help but look at them and be inspired!

Stock Images

Websites like Period Images and BewitchingBookstock are specifically meant to give people a look at different genre stylized figures. These are where people can get starter images that later become book covers, but I like using them, especially when trying to describe clothing, characters, props, etc. because it gives me the chance to see it clearly and then create a clearer image for my reader.

Browsing sites with stock photos like these is so helpful in figuring out my characters, clothing, and more.

I hope that some of these help you if you are like me and love to use visuals to help you create! Let me know if you have any other ways to get visual inspiration, I’d love to try new things!

Published by Leslie

I'm an author, teacher, wife, and mother of three who just finished an MFA program and is working on a YA fantasy novel.

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