Confession time: Writing a book is hard you guys.
I know, hot take. But today I wanted to share one of the techniques that I’ve found really helps me focus my energy when I’m in the early stages of a writing project . . . and the middle stages . . . and the late stages. Alright you get the point! But that technique is called creating a book aesthetic.
But what exactly is a book aesthetic? How is it used? How do you even go about making one? And what exactly do each of the images in a mood board have to mean?
To find out the answers to these questions and more, read on for some tips, tricks, and examples from my own novel Chaos Looming!
What is a Book Aesthetic?
What is the book aesthetic? I like to think of the book aesthetic as a compilation of images, music, quotes, and even video that help tease out the artistic feel of a story. Often this aesthetic revolves around characters, story lines, setting, and even important objects. This is especially helpful when you’re struggling to visualize a new world, characters, and the important events in your story.
Bringing a new story into the world is hard! Why not make it easier for yourself and really get those juices flowing with some fun visualization? Mood boards can be made for an entire book, individual characters, locations, or even individual scenes. It’s really all about making your story world come to life, so get creative!
How To Create your Own Book Aesthetic
Well, that may be all well and good, but how do you actually go about making a book aesthetic you ask? Well, I have two words for you – Mood Boards!
Mood boards have been around forever. Basically since there were magazines to cut up and paper mache together into beautiful works of 80s art, mood boards have inspired many the creative. Nowadays we have some slightly more high-tech tools. From Photoshop to Canva, Pinterest to Spotify playlists, the options really are endless! Not sure where to start? Check out these templates on Canva and let the magic begin!
Now that we’ve talked about the “whats” and “hows” let’s move on to some concrete examples. Check out my own mood board for my book Chaos Looming below!
Chaos Looming Aesthetic
Here it is guys, an example mood board for my own novel, Chaos Looming. I personally love that it’s simple and clean but with enough space to showcase various aspects of the story. Which aspects you ask? Read on friend . . .
Components of Book Aesthetic - Characters
Characters are an important part of the book aesthetic. After all, they share their lives with us throughout the story. Their likes, dislikes, fears, and goals, all of it plays a huge role in creating a story that we love to engage with. Some ideas for things to include are appearance, clothes, careers, pets, etc. Honestly, some authors and readers love their characters so much that they create entire mood boards just for them! (Hmm, interesting idea actually🤔)
In the Chaos Looming Mood Board, I’ve included an image of the main protagonist, Keira Altman (look familiar from The Cantor cover? 😅) along with her trusty sword in the bottom left hand corner. In the top right hand corner you’ll see an eery depiction of the Worshippers of Séiro. These nasty rogue pneumonancers are some of the chief antagonists in Chaos Looming. But who’s actually pulling the strings? Well, you can’t put everything in the mood board. 😉
Components of Book Aesthetic - Setting
This is a YA Fantasy set in your typical Sword & Sorcery medieval-esque setting but with some definite influences from Ancient Greece and Rome. The pictures I’ve chosen definitely reflect that setting. You can play around with depictions of cities, buildings, the environment, festivals, and even the weather!
In the Chaos Looming Mood Board, I’ve focused on the settings for the beginning of the book and for the end of the book. That means we have the tranquil farmhouse on the river near Abalás and the bustling capital of Crîd Eálas on the Southern Coast of Loren. Both of these settings play an important role in the story and I’m excited to be able to share them here!
Components of Book Aesthetic - Objects
Particularly in the fantasy genre, objects often hold great importance to both characters and the plot overall. From magic rings to trusty weapons and secret spell books, objects are often key to driving our stories further, bringing characters to life and constructing entire worlds out of our imaginations.
In the Chaos Looming Mood Board, I chose to include the trusty red plumed helmets of the Bellatorio, the major military organization of Loren. Their red helmets and cloaks make them stand out and are an important symbol of their role in the country – either for good or ill. I’ve also shown a sword next to a set of scales. These symbolize the Legion of Pneumos, an ancient organization dedicated to fighting the forces of chaos across time and worlds. But as Keira soon discovers, the line between chaos and order is not so easily drawn.
Components of Book Aesthetic - Quotes
Quotes are often a cool component to include in your Mood Board. These can be great to define character voice (what quotes really resonate with them?) or even to touch on the theme of the book as a whole!
In the Chaos Looming Mood Board, since the book is published and ready to be read I chose to include quotes from the book itself. You may recognize this one from the back-of-book blurb!
Build more than you break. Heal more than you destroy.
But what if chaos can’t be tamed?
For centuries, the Legion of Pneumos has lurked behind the seat of power in Loren. To preserve order across worlds, they are charged with battling chaos in all its forms, no matter the cost.
Keira Altman, the newest Legionnaire, has spent years perfecting the art of wielding pneuma and channeling order out of chaos. Ripped from her own world and into one she barely understands, the only thing Keira knows for certain is that she has a purpose. Now, if only she knew what it was.
Yet when word arrives that the Regio lies on his deathbed, Keira’s new world begins to crumble around her. As the specter of a peasant uprising looms large, and political maneuvering threatens to unravel the fabric of society, Keira realizes that her only hope of avoiding the coming turmoil may lie in the very institutions she’s fought so hard against. But can she master the forces of chaos without losing herself to the chaos within? And what if the price of order proves too high to pay?
Components of Book Aesthetic - Music
In my humble opinion, there are few things that speak to the soul in the same way that music can. Perhaps that’s just because as a writer I’m woefully incompetent when it comes to all things musical, but I choose to believe that it’s because music truly is the magic that refuses to abandon are tired old world.
Since I love to listen to music as I write, I started early on to mark the songs that I felt really resonated with a particular scene or the theme for a book as a whole. After that it was too easy to compile a soundtrack and annotate some notes next to each song.
Want to try your hand at book soundtrack creation? Check out my Soundtrack for Chaos Looming if you’re looking for a little inspiration!
Well as they say in Looney Tunes, th-th-th-that’s all folks! I hoped you enjoyed this peek into my creative process! Plus you got some inside scoop on all the secrets behind the book aesthetic of Chaos Looming!
Be sure to let me know in the comments below which parts resonated with you!