Why Making Aesthetics Is More Than a Procrastinating Tool
If you're on social media and involved in any writing communities (which you probably are, how else are you reading this post?) you've likely seen aesthetics from people's books or ones they've read pop up. On Twitter, there was a weekly hashtag meant for it all Summer, 2018 that was a great way to meet others and show off your book! I like making aesthetics for myself and others, but I've seen people state that it's just a way for writers to procrastinate from doing actual writing.
Now while that can be true, I have some strong reasons why aesthetics are a great tool for writers - especially strong visual writers - and should be taken advantage of by cultivating a Pinterest, Unsplash, Pexel, whatever board to get to know their stories better. I'll use examples of some of my own aesthetics from recently and (yikes) not so recently so you can see how important these visual tools can be!
Reason #1 - Aesthetics Help a Writer Flesh Out Their Story's World
This one leans more towards writers who have a bit more difficulty imagining their world, but I find it helpful whenever I'm in the drafting stage! Images can help solidify an part of a setting a writer may have struggled placing and can be used to explain details they might otherwise miss. Stating there's trees around the protagonist is great, but zooming in on the smaller details, like the bramble bushes or the crown shyness in the top of the trees paints that picture even better. Images can help point out these details!
Take this aesthetic of one of my work-in-progress YA book's below. This book has relied a lot on looking at photo sites for ways I can enhance the feel of the story and helped me realize I wanted it set on a wintery east coast! The first aesthetic is when the bud of the idea first started and the second has more firm ideas like the flowers, horses, and boat that play a crucial role in the themes and symbolisms. Most often writer's create the world's by themselves, but there's no harm in seeking a bit of help to realize what they could add to go from draft one to a polished manuscript.
Reason #2 - Aesthetics Are A Lesson in Pitching
This is the most important reason I love aesthetics and find them a great tool to use. There are lots of resources available for writers to practice creating a perfect pitch to explain their book to someone and can point out if the story lacks a clear direction of stakes & characters. I'm here to argue aesthetics help do the same, but in a visual way of course.
Take these two aesthetics below:
What do you notice about them? Can you tell me in a line or two what you believe the stories are about?
I'm guessing for the second aesthetic, you can. It's about four young people during autumn and there's a cozy feel to it. Pretty straight forward and let's the viewer know without even hearing the worded pitch what the story is about.
The first aesthetic on the other hand....well not so much, right? It's a fantasy that's for sure. The sword clashing and dragon give that away, but what else is this story about? There's no clear vibe or where the story is set (is it in the mountains? A forest?) and there's no sense of what the story is about or who we'd read about. There's a girl and a shirtless guy and a Black woman and some....colourful person which, yes is a cool photo, but what does it mean? I get no sense of what to expect from that story and I'm guessing neither do you.
And here's the plot twist: when I was working on that book, I didn't truly know either.
I spent years working on that first (YA high fantasy) book and had a whole series "planned" out, but now a year and a half later after shelving it, I still can't give you a clear pitch to describe it. Some stories like a high fantasy can be complicated and have lots of moving parts, but there still needs to be a core plot, clear main characters and a setting we can get the general understanding of in a glimpse. Aesthetics of course, can't easily explain stakes or motivations as easily as words can, but they can and should highlight the tone, main characters, and setting of your book.
When making aesthetics, I like to hone in on specific elements in my story to find images for (ie main characters, setting, magic system objects if applicable, important objects) and if I can't confidently think of 5-7 details, I question how much of the main story I've fleshed out so far. Here are two great examples of the same book but over the course of a year of fleshing it out:
Yes, I have gotten better at making aesthetics in general, but aside from that, can you see how much more I've cultivated the world from my first aesthetic to now? I sure can. And for the first aesthetic, I was very aware of how little of the story I knew at the time and what I wanted the characters to look like! Now it has a clear world to live in.
Reason #3 - Aesthetics Bring Writer Friends Around!
This is the last, but one of the best parts of aesthetics. Over the course of last summer thanks to my aesthetics, I've made many new writer friends who saw them and reached out! I know making friends online or in person can be daunting, but I've found for writers, aesthetics are a great way to catch a person's eye and give them a quick idea of what you're writing / into. The weekly hashtag might be done now, but there's many places you can still show off your story to find your group within the writing community. Some examples include, #CPMatch, #AMMParty (for Author Mentor Match hopefuls), #WritingCommunity, and the Pitch Wars contest tag (last year it was #PWPoePrompts but I can't guarantee it'll be the same this year).
And if you have no idea where to start making fun aesthetics, let me leave you with a few tricks of mine for making an eye-catching, pleasing compilation of images!
Making an Aesthetic Tips & Tricks
Choose a colour palette that best describes your story and stick to images with these colours. If your book is a dark, haunting historical fantasy, you could go with darker shades of green or red with hints of black and/or grey. The closer the images blend well together, the better.
Like mentioned in Reason #2, think of 5-7 details in your story that play a crucial role (Is there a creepy forest? A specific type of monster? Elaborate jewellery?) and find images with these details that relate also to tip #1.
If on Pinterest, add the word "aesthetic" at the end of what you're searching for. I find 9/10 it helps find a cool angle for what I want.
In your spare time (I like to sometimes browse just before bed) go on these picture sites and save images you think would be a great choice to use down the road! Aesthetics can be time consuming, but if you already have a collection full of them, it can make the process a lot faster.
If I'm on my phone, I like to make my aesthetics through the Layout app from Instagram. If I'm on my computer, BeFunky is where I go!
If you find the perfect image but it's not quite light or dark enough, I pop it into a filter app so it can blend in seamlessly with the others.
And that's it! Hopefully you took something away from this blog post and if it inspired you to make more or try your hand at aesthetics, then my work is done.
Thanks for reading!