Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Idea Boards by Jill Eileen Smith

Are you looking for tools that will help inspire you while working on your manuscript? Author Jill Eileen Smith is here this Writer’s Journey Wednesday to share some ideas. (Dawn here.) I haven’t used an Idea Board – yet. But recently, I had an “ah-ha” moment. I realized that a certain actor made a perfect fit for the hero I had envisioned in my head. I now have an assortment of photos – smiling, brooding, laughing, etc., to help me visualize this character. It’s fun! Enjoy what Jill has to offer us today. She’ll return to share her journey to publication on Fortifying Friday, July 30.

Idea Boards

What is an Idea Board? When I mention my use of them, some people mistake them for storyboards as they are used in filmmaking. Storyboards are sketches that tell the story (movie) frame by frame, showing each scene to be filmed. They give the director a specific idea of how to shoot the film, to keep him/her on track.

Idea Boards are different—they are poster boards filled with photos—pictures of people and places. I borrowed the Idea Board suggestion several years ago from women’s fiction author Deborah Raney, and have used it in each of my books since. I cast my characters for my biblical novels from pictures of Jewish actors and actresses, or in some cases from Arab or Egyptian actors and actresses for characters like Hagar and Ishmael in my current WIP (work in progress). I’m looking for faces that are similar to the character I envision. (This comes in handy when the publisher asks for book cover ideas. The Jewish actresses I “cast” for each of the wives of King David, Michal, Abigail, and Bathsheba came very close to the models they found for each respective cover. (The attached example is my Idea Board for Abigail.)

Once all of my characters are “cast,” I look for photos of place. Archeological sites of ancient Israel are great, along with pictures of artifacts or anything else that gives me a feel for the setting. I’m a visual learner. I need pictures to stimulate my imagination most of the time. Research books like pictorial dictionaries or cultural atlases are too nice to cut up, so I get most of my pictures off the Internet and print them for the Idea Board. I love making them! Maybe it’s the kid in me getting to play with scissors and glue and pretending I’m artistic, but this is one of the fun parts of writing!

Another option to add to an Idea Board is to make Character Trait Cards and tact them to the bulletin board on either side of the Idea Board. Brightly colored (or white if you prefer) 4x6 or 3x5 cards work well. Put the name of each character at the top, then list their characteristics below their name. Things like: hair and eye color, weight, build, age, birth date, career, favorite food and color, unique characteristics, and how they were related to other characters in the story. Depending on your genre, you can get pretty detailed with these things, and making such a list does come in handy when you go to write. It helps to know the character’s eye color doesn’t change from blue to green because we forgot what we wrote one hundred and thirty pages earlier. And editors appreciate having such a list when they read through your manuscript to make sure you stayed consistent.

Idea Boards hang in my office as inspiration. If you find yourself stuck as you try to write your own novel, perhaps such a visual reminder will get you going again.

Jill Eileen Smith is the best-selling author of Michal and Abigail, books one and two in The Wives of King David series. She has more than twenty years of writing experience, and her writing has gathered acclaim in several contests. Her research into the lives of David's wives has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times.

When she isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her family; in person, over the webcam, or hopping a plane to fly across the country. She can often be found reading Christian fiction, testing new recipes, grabbing lunch with friends, or snuggling one or both of her two adorable cats. She lives with her family in southeast Michigan.

To find out more about Jill and her books, please visit

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