Vision Boarding for Writers

I’m a very visual writer. To tell a story I have to see it as well as hear it and feel it. I need to find a personal way in to the story and I need to build the world which, in turn, provides story possibilities and detail to make the story feel real.

Before I wrote books I worked in film and TV for a few years and when you’re making a film you gather lots of visual and aural references – images, video, music and maps. I do the same thing when I’m writing a book.

Here are some of the key images I gathered during the writing of my new book The Fall and how they influenced the development of the Story, World and Characters.

My wife gave this book to me. We had spent some time travelling during the writing of the book. There is something so interesting about looking through rear windows of apartments and seeing glimpses of other lives, but you can never see the whole story. I wanted The Fall to feel like that. There’s always something in the next line, paragraph or chapter that you need to know. I tried to create suspense this way.


One of my favourite films is Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. It creates great suspense with few characters in a single location. It was a big influence on the development of The Fall.
I watched the Harrison Ford film Frantic and also The Bourne Identity when I was developing the story. These films have a good balance of action, suspense, character, heart and ideas.
I also re-read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a strong story about a son’s attempt to understand and connect with his father. It’s set mostly in a single location. It has heart, mystery, suspense, and it’s very visual and cinematic. These are all elements that I wanted to imbue The Fall with.

Sam Garner is a comic book creator. He’s writing a comic book series called Harry Garner: Crime Reporter about his dad. But real-life Harry is finding it hard to live up to the idealised version. Reading these comic books helped me to develop the creative, imaginative side of Sam’s personality.


I made this mood reel for my book ‘The Fall’ early in the writing process. Nailing the location and the tone allowed the story to grow out of that. It’s the kind of previsualisation filmmakers do but very useful for authors.

A post shared by Tristan Bancks (@tristanbancksbooks) on

I often use Google Maps and Street View to gather details and lock down the location for a story.


The second and third drafts of The Fall were set in the underground Paris catacombs and the story involved the French president. Most of those drafts never saw the light of day but I like to think that the flavour of them is still there in the finished book. Maybe those scenes will find their way into another book one day.


Boss Fight is an amazing site with lots of extraordinary royalty-free images that helped me capture the tone and feeling of my story
I stared out of many windows while writing The Fall. I love being at a great height but falling is one of my greatest fears. That fear helped to drive the story and make the writing feel taut and suspenseful.
This is a window in Prague, Czech Republic. Author Isobelle Carmody was living there and was kind enough to show me and my family around town for a few days in 2013. I asked her about writing genre and if she thought you needed to know all the conventions of the genre you thought you might be writing in (crime, thriller etc) and she pushed me not to learn the conventions but to write the story that needed to be written and to let people categorise it later. That advice helped me to discover great humanity in the characters and to hopefully avoid predictability.
When writing, I tend to keep an eye on the news. Sometimes there’ll be a story that resonates with what I’m writing and feeds the story with important real-life detail.


Music helps to capture the tone and emotional core of a story. Above is the Spotify soundtrack I listened to while writing the book.

You can buy a copy of The Fall from your local bookseller, a signed copy from my online store here or you can buy it direct from a range of online booksellers like Dymocks, Readings, Booktopia, Boomerang Books etc here.

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Story Starters: Vision Boarding



  1. June 20, 2017 / 1:26 pm

    To say an author is not driven by visual stimuli is a major inaccuracy. I love this visual pre-journey you take us on, Tristan. It is one I embark on on a much smaller scale when penning a picture book or short story, as well. Often times, without that visual anchor, I start to drift from the heart of the story. Thank you for your continued insight, even though this one did make me a little queasy from the height!

    PS about to 'jump' into The Fall soon. 🙂

    • June 20, 2017 / 9:33 pm

      Thanks Dimity. Glad it's useful. I imagine picture book writing must be such a visual process, constantly imagining how the words can offset the illustrations and how you can avoid saying too much in the text. Happy writing to you. And hope you enjoy The Fall. Let me know if I can be useful to you on KBR. T.

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