You may have heard the term aesthetic being thrown around a lot, though maybe not everyone knows quite what it means. I certainly didn’t know what it really meant for a long time, especially concerning stories and crafting them. People would often use the term aesthetic in a rather pretentious sort of way (at least that’s how I viewed it), and they were more interested in making aesthetic Pinterest boards for their stories or characters than actually writing their stories. That always bugged me.
But recently I’ve gotten more into aesthetics myself and I’ve sort of figured out how it works with story crafting as well. I do still think a lot of people use it in a rather pretentious sort of way, but it is most certainly not something you should just shoot down. In fact, aesthetic story building is quite beneficial, especially for less plot-driven and more character driven stories. It’s especially useful for atmospheric stories and stories that rely heavily on theme.
So what exactly is aesthetic? I suppose in the context I’m using it for, it has to do heavily with symbolism, or little things that remind you of the story/characters. It can also be about the atmosphere you’re trying to build with your story. People will often make aesthetic collages for stories or characters which include things or quotes that remind them of them, but music can also be used for such an aesthetic (which is why people will often make playlists for their stories or characters).
I once outlined a story by just going through Pinterest and making a big aesthetic story board. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the story at all other than an initial premise, but looking at tons of different pictures gave me different ideas for what I wanted my story to feel like. What sort of scenery and symbols and themes would end up going into it. The story turned out to be a mess, but it was a good starting point regardless.
Imagery and symbolism play a huge part in crafting a rich, layered story or world. It helps bring out stronger themes, and if you can figure out a consistent image or feeling you want to bring out and then work toward bringing it about in your story, it will just be that much more special of a story rather than a hollow husk.
To give some examples of aesthetics in stories and perhaps what they might mean, I’ll use some from my own stories. Twinkling starlight, reading old books while sitting in a window, drinking hot tea and snuggling in a blanket by the fire, stroking a fluffy cat while you slowly fall asleep, staying up late into the night to stargaze with the one you love the most in the world. It’s warm and comforting and evokes feelings of wonder for the universe. And that’s the sort of feeling and atmosphere that you would strive to create in such a story. It might be a starting point for getting ideas for scenes, but what you do with it in the meat of the story is up to you as you write it.
Aesthetics will give your story a unique identity. Something where, when people see those sorts of things outside of your story, they could be reminded of your story. It gives them a more homely feel, and just more of a sense of belonging. Like it knows what it wants to be and exactly what it’s doing.
So, when constructing your story, think about its aesthetics. Let your story bloom into something its own.