The Importance of Mood Boards

Do you know how to keep the tone of your novel in place? Write with power to direct your imaginary world.

The Power of Visual Cues

If you use Pinterest, you may inherently understand the concept of a mood board without much explanation. As a lifelong reader who is pleased to see some fabulous cinematic interpretation of literary classics, I have come to appreciate the power and appeal of writers using this visual tool.

As a fiction writer, mood boards can be invaluable in keeping the aesthetic of a novel in place. The tone of the novel is set by the words you choose to describe color, the details of items in the world, the movement of the people in it. With each of these word choices, you create the mood of a scene — sadness, joy, tension, betrayal, horror, lust. Use the power of visual cues to direct the imaginary world you are constructing.

What Goes on a "Mood Board"? How Do I Use One?

You can start small or large. Create boards for different characters, settings, or your overall world. Make them as complete, as full, as detailed as you need. What do you put on a mood board? Anything that seems inspiring or in place for the topic.

Example: LoTR Mood Board

If you had to create a mood board for the aesthetic of The Lord of the Rings movies, you might choose pictures from magazines or websites that look like Celtic jewelry and weapons; perhaps audio clips of people speaking Welsh or Old English; perhaps quotes about bravery, honor, friendship, duty, or destiny; perhaps hand-drawn art of fantasy creatures. You might notice a pattern of colors that include forest green, cognac brown, tarnished silver, copper, cobalt blue, and angelic white.

You would put, in short, the textual elements that create the mood or tone achieved in the whole text.

What mood might the elements on this imaginary LoTR mood board create? I see: Antiquated, a bit barbaric, mysterious, perhaps dangerous, and full of curiosities.

Example: "The Road" Mood Board

If you had to create a mood board for the visual aesthetic of The Road, you might choose images of apocalyptic urban deserts; the scent and feel of ash in the air (if it were possible to “pin” such things in place); audio of fearful whispers; perhaps black and white close-up images of a man’s sad eyes; perhaps quotes about loneliness, regret, terror, pride, and nameless love. Except for a few scenes, all colors are greyed, washed out, ashen.

Cover of Cormac McCarthy's book "The Road." A black cover with red text.

(Tangent: whether you’re a movie-watcher or a page-turner, check out all of Tolkien and McCarthy‘s masterpieces. Just sayin.)

Think Ahead: Mood Boards as BTS Content

You may have heard one of the “new truths” about self-publishing: consistent and dedicated self-promotion is the only way your book will sell. (This CNET article is an oldie but still offers some of the most solid advice out there. #19 is right on the money.) After you publish, you can forever be a salesman of your handmade product. So, even while you’re writing that manuscript, think seriously about marketing, promotion, and social media content you want to post during the publication process and after its release.

One fun way to share the writing experience with your readers is to show them #bts (behind-the-scenes) content, such as your edited #wip (work-in-progress) or your mood board. It personalizes, creates excitement, and can help your readers become immersed in the world of your writing.

Post a few pictures of the mood board at different stages. Save a few for “throwbacks” or VIP BTS content. If your creativity is visual and interactive, feed it and see how it levels up your next WIP.

Need professional review, beta read on your early draft, grammatical edits, or help developing characters or plot?

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