We've all been there. You're about halfway through the first draft of your current novel. Or maybe you've even finished the rough draft and you're sitting down to revise and you're just... a little lost. You're not sure what to tackle first and you're not even sure who your characters really are.
Maybe this isn't as much of an issue for the Plotters out there, but for us Plantser/Pantser set, it can be a little more challenging when trying to tame an unruly first draft or whip a second draft into shape.
Here is one tried and true strategy that I've leaned on in the past, and has helped tremendously in rekindling inspiration, or just better understanding who I've created on the page.
What is a mood board?
A mood board is a collection of quotes or images that remind you of or reflect either the characters or the world that you're building in your latest creative endeavor.
Sounds simple enough, right? Pinterest boards and mood boards come in all shapes and sizes and varieties and they are either manifested in digital or physical form. Mine are all digital -- the wily world of Pinterest is where I do all of my world and character building via mood board.
Why make a mood board?
For me, personally, it's an integral part of the character, story, and world building process, and it usually starts somewhere between the inception of the idea, putting a very loose paragraph outline down on paper, and the actual act of writing or building out a plot outline.
For instance: the idea of Rosita Ruins the Heist has been kicking around in my brain for at least a year or two. I wrote out a short plot outline/summary a few years ago, and in that time I have been slowly adding quotes and visuals to a mood board whenever the inspiration strikes me. Check out my Rosita mood board. It has definitely evolved over time and you can see the visual pivot shortly after it was created.
I also like Pinterest, because it allows me not only to load up inspirational quotes and images, but it's also helpful to have in the process of actually writing the book.
For instance: while writing the first draft of Astrid vs. the Asteroid, I needed to do a TON of research. Having a Pinterest board made it easy to store all the research in one location. The end result is a board that's a mix of scientific/space facts, dresses, character images, inspirational quotes, and ethereal images that map to the emotional mood of the story. Check out the Astrid mood board.
How to make a mood board.
If you already have a Pinterest account, just hop on and load up a brand new board. The easiest place to start is with the images you have in your head for what your characters look like. The nice thing about Pinterest is once it sees you adding/liking one kind of image, it likes to feed you a bunch of that same thing, so it's incredibly easy to build up a board rather quickly once you've indicated what sort of content you're searching for.
For the more crafty among us who like tangible objects vs. digital ones, there's always an IRL mood board. That involves designating an actual board, or a section of wall in a room or an office and tacking up physical images or items to fully expand on the aesthetic.
The great thing about mood boards is they can be anything you want or need in order to keep you inspired or help you better create your story.
For instance: my Metal Heart mood board primarily started out as a way for me to visualize the main characters, after I'd already written a few drafts and knew who they were. It wasn't about character building so much as seeing the characters I'd already brought to life on the page. I mean, who doesn't want to cast their own stories with beautiful people in Hollywood? And then it picked up steam with images of cybernetic implants and really took off as I was building the character of Alpha, an artificial intelligence. It's a delightful mish mash of many different elements of the series. Check out the Metal Heart mood board.
You can and should approach mood boards in whatever way makes the most sense to you. Having one board per character perhaps? Maybe one board for the setting? One board that's research based? The sky is really the limit and it's up to you to determine how best to use this tool and resource to your advantage.
Other Writer's Block Strategies
Melinda Jasmine Crouchley, YA science fiction author and professional editor.