Monday, February 2, 2015

Using Pinterest for character development and marketing

I recently made a discovery that I had to share: Pinterest is a great tool for character development.

A while back, someone in a group I'm in asked if anyone had made a Pinterest board for their books. The thought intrigued me, but I didn't run with it. Then, a few days ago, a friend mentioned she had created a Pinterest board for a character in one of her books.

But I heard her wrong, and thought she said she'd made a whole page for the character. A whole page? Like there is an actual person, who has their own actual page with their own actual boards? The idea banged around my head setting off a bunch of fireworks, and I was off and running.

See, there's a lot of advice out there about building your characters, so they aren't two dimensional. Exercises you do when you put your character in certain situations to see how they would react. Questionnaires and lists. All wonderful, and I love using them. But none of those techniques give me a legitimate reason to look through pretty pictures.

I instantly ran to Pinterest and created a page for the main character of Accidental Divination, the book I started during NaNoWriMo. I've just finished the first draft, and hope to write a sequel, so thought it would be cool to create a space where I could 'become' the main character, Semarra Rae. I spent several magical hours creating boards for her, and finding pins for those boards.

For almost any aspect of a character you can imagine, you can make a board. Of course the obvious visual things, like a 'muscle car' board or an antique jewelry board, but not just these. A home repair board for a character that flips houses. A board for tech articles for your software engineer. Even a board for gambling tips and favorite casinos for your gambling addict. No matter how strange or obscure, you can make a board for it.

In fact, if you realize you can't think of many boards for your character, that's probably a warning sign that you haven't given him/her enough dimension. Give them a few hobbies, or a few odd quirks. Maybe they love Tasmanian Devils (I know I do--don't judge). Challenge yourself to come up with a half a dozen, at least.

As you make decisions about which things you want to put on your character's board and why, you'll find yourself making decisions about them that deepen your insight into who they are, and this will show up in your writing.

But it gets even cooler.

Remember when LOST came out, and had a whole bunch of fake web pages based on the show? Pages for the Dharma Initiative, and the founders of that initiative, pages for the fake websites, etc.? Even though the fans knew these pages weren't real, they spent hours surfing them, looking for insights and clues.

You can do the same sort of thing with your character, if you create a whole page and not just a board. If you build it the way a real person would, it will give the impression the real person exists, because it's a full page with multiple boards determined by their personality. And with that, you've created a web presence for your character, and you can use this to build interest for your book:

  • Before your book comes out, use the page as a teaser. What sort of character is this? What sort of person likes these things? 
  • When the book comes out, use the page to highlight interesting aspects of your character and plot. Pin items/lists/places/events that feature in your book. Tweet them as hints to your audience. Play guessing games about how they're relevant. 
  • In between books in a series, use them to keep your reader's interest alive. Reveal things about the character that you didn't in your book, bonus aspects of who they are. Give hints to the next plot. All of this will help keep your audience engaged. 

So how do you do create a separate page for your character?

1) Create a new e-mail address to use for this purpose. 
You will need a separate e-mail address for every Pinterest page you create. But, that's not as annoying as it first seems. Gmail, for example, lets you create multiple e-mail addresses, and you can forward the mail from each one to your 'real' e-mail address, so you don't have to deal with multiple accounts. So, if your character's name is 'Sherlock Holmes', grab something like sherlockholmes@gmail, and set it to forward any mail to your main Gmail account.

2) Set up the Pinterest account associated with your new e-mail address. 
Name the page after your character in some way, preferably something that a search engine will pick up on. Here's the one I created for my character; I used her first and middle name:

Now you'll want to start adding pins...and here's where it gets a little bit tricky to have more than one Pinterest page. Let's say you're on your personal Pinterest page, and you see something that would be perfect for Sherlock's page. You don't want to have to log out and log back in as Sherlock, find the pin again, and pin it. So there are two ways you can get around this.

3A) Create a board on your personal Pinterest page for pins you want to later pin to Sherlock's board. Then have Sherlock follow this board (or all of your boards). That way, you only have to log on as Sherlock once in a while, and grab the pins you've been storing up. This is my favorite solution. I have a board on my personal page named after the book itself, for this purpose and to publicize the book if I want to do so directly from my own page.

3B) From Sherlock's page, invite your personal page to add pins to his boards.
This way, Sherlock's boards show up under your personal list of boards, and you can pin directly to them without having to switch accounts. To set this up, log into Sherlock's page. Go to the board you want to share; either open it, or click on 'edit':

Then, invite your personal page to add pins; enter the e-mail address associated with your personal board, and click 'invite':

You'll get a notification on your personal e-mail board to pin to Sherlock's boards; once you accept that, you're golden.

The reason I don't like this method as much is that when you pin to Sherlock's boards, it will say that the pin was added by your main page, not by Sherlock. If you're going for the illusion that the page is actually maintained by your character, this will interfere with the effect.

There you have it! I hope something here has been helpful; I'll report back as I learn more.

As I've been pinning things for Semarra, I've been whittling away at her character, and have been inspired on her behalf. Quite a few of the pins have started to spark potential plot points, and have helped me flesh out existing scenes. And it's been tons of fun.

And here's a parting question for you: which book character's Pinterest page would you like to be able to visit, if it existed?

Happy Monday!


  1. Pinterest is a gem. I use it all the time, and apparently have yet another reason now to be on it! Thanks for sharing!

    1. My pleasure! I'm learning so much, it's crazy. :)

  2. How fun for creating backstory and development on your characters!

  3. This is an interesting idea...I guess I would visit a page for Edward Cullen... :)

    1. That would be sooooo fun. How cool to build one that gave insight into all the generations between when he was turned and modern day...

  4. WOW I'm not a writer but I found this concept very interesting....I could even see if a Character has created a board using it in the next story...reader could really get another side that couldn't be shared in the book.

    1. How fun would that be! You could even have a scene in the book where the character person is sitting adding pins while talking to someone or something. You've just given me a cool idea!! Thanks!!

  5. I love this idea! When I start my book I will definitely be using this exercise! Thank you so very much!

    1. You're welcome! Please share it with me when you do, I'd love to follow it. :)

  6. That's a really cool idea. I never thought about using Pinterest for character development, but it really does make sense.

  7. These are such great tips for writers!

  8. Fascinating question, what character? Hmm...maybe Anne from Anne of Green Gables. I haven't read the books in a while, although I have watched the movie. I am intrigued by her thought life, so much detail that she takes in and shares. I wouldn't have thought of doing this, interesting idea.

    1. That's a great one--I bet lots of people would love to see that. Somebody should do a fan one, lol. :)


Are you a writer? Prove it! Leave me a comment!