Monday, March 26, 2012

Picture It

Anne Gallagher has a post about characters for a new book.  She has pictures for each one and talked about how she doesn't like to write a character until she can find a picture of who represents that person.  I've seen a lot of bloggers post pics of their characters. I know these pictures aren't the characters themselves, maybe more inspiration for them.  And it could be anything in the photo, the physical appearance, expression on their face, or the emotion portrayed. 

I've never done the picture thing.  Maybe I'm odd.  Especially since I realized my mom (love you mom!) had come across pictures she thought of as my characters.  I posted here about people watching, but even that doesn't give me characters.  It might give me mannerisms, or motivation but not a character.  At least not yet.

Sometimes my characters come fully formed.  They walk up to me, figuratively speaking, and tell me who they are, and what they are looking for.  Sometimes they are a little harder.  I know their public persona but they hide their feelings and motivations from me.  As to inspiration for them, it's often an emotion, or maybe a snapshot picture in my mind.  A picture of a girl crying, a man wondering if his wife loves him, a woman on a cliff looking out to sea, the back of a van covered in a destroyed wedding cake.  Then I have to figure out what is going on. 

I'm sure there are just as many ways to find characters as there are authors.  How do you find/see your characters?  Do you look for pictures of them on the web? 

28 comments:

  1. Hi Sara, I have been inspired by pictures, but mainly my characters just walk on the scene and introduce themselves. These characters are actually easier to write than the ones that I try to conjure up using a picture. And I guess I've never really looked for pictures; I've stumbled upon them instead. :)

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    1. Yes, the ones that come fully formed are the best to write. I've heard them called mushrooms, they pop up and steal the scene.

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  2. Ha!
    Sara, one of the first how-to books I ever read insisted that writers needed a photo of the characters and I followed that advice for my SF. I have scads of them. For the contemporary trilogy, I hadn't hunted them and only recently started opening myself to the idea. I have a few.

    I say to each his own. Do what works for you.

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    1. Wow, I can't imagine what I would have thought if I'd read that book when I first started writing. Probably would have knocked me back a few years in the novel writing. Just like the books that said I needed to outline everything and do a cork-board with note cards. I couldn't write like that so I thought I just wasn't good enough to write a novel.

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  3. It could certainly be helpful to find a photo of what a character might look like. I've never done that...but maybe in the future I'll try that. Does using my son on the front cover of my next book count? LOL Of course, he has been turned into part of an alien race I created for my book and so it doesn't bear that much resemblance to him.

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    1. That's pretty cool. All his life he'll be able to say he's on a book cover. Yea, if your characters are SF/Fantasy and not so closely related to humans it could be difficult to find pictures.

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  4. I like looking at pictures if I'm having hard time seeing specific hair colors in my mind. Sometimes when I actually see the picture I'm able to come up with good descriptions. And it's kind of fun to have someone who looks a lot like your character in a photograph :)

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    1. That's cool that it helps with visualization and description. So where do people go to find pictures of people? I mean can you just type, "black haired beauty" into a search engine?

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  5. I like having, and giving the reader, the suggestion of what a character looks like. I don't give too many specific details, as I like the reader to bring some of their own vision to the story too.

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    1. I don't get overly detailed in descriptions either. There is some but it's sprinkled around the book and gives some room for reader interpretation.

      In Pride and Predjudice all we really know of Elizabeth is that she had fine eyes and tolerable teeth. I think there's a little in there about her hair color but it's pretty vague.

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  6. Is that all we know of Elizabeth? Wow! Just goes to show how you don't need to write out every detail.
    I'm like you in that I don't have a picture of someone in mind when I write a character. My MC is a very specific type of person, but all the details of her appearance aren't clear. I'd rather drop hints and have the reader finish the picture.

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    1. Someday I'm going to re-read that book and jot down exactly how much physical description there is. Mostly Austen used personality and one or two physical points and left the rest up to the reader.

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  7. I don't have one place I get characters from. They morph from several different places. Sometimes they're based on a friend or an acquaintance, sometimes from a picture. But after that, the character change and solidify into something distinct and different, enough that by the final edit, they aren't all that much like the person they were based on. I love that. Thanks for the post. :)

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    1. That's the good thing about writing. No matter where we start is usually ends up as it's own thing. Makes for an interesting ride wouldn't you say?

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  8. I'm terrible when it comes to having a physical vision of my characters. I don't know why! I find photos help me pin them down a bit.

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    1. I'll have to try it when I've got a character that's fuzzy. Maybe it will help me pin them down.

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  9. My daughter and I were just talking about this. I don't have such a clear vision of my characters, physically, that I could pick out pictures of them. Maybe I should try, though. I can see where it would be a fun exercise.

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    1. I wonder if looking at pictures would confuse a murky idea of a character or clarify it? It does sound fun though, doesn't it.

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  10. My characters seem to be little wisps of characteristics/attributes/physical appearance. They all mold together to form my lovelies. There really isn't any rhyme or reason to it. They just happen. My mind gives birth little by little to who they are and what they become. I love it.

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    1. Maybe that's why I don't look at pictures of them? Without their personalities and actions it doesn't feel like them.

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  11. I've never done the picture thing... I'm not sure why! It seems fun... I do have a visual in my head but I've never gone out and tried to match it. Perhaps I should! :D

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    1. I'm afraid I wouldn't find a match. If you do it I hope you have lots of fun and success.

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  12. The picture idea is a good one! I've not used it before, but I might in the future. My characters are better paired with an actor or actress who I think could portray them. That leads to some fun characters, let me tell you!

    Cheers!
    Jen

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    1. Fun characters are the best so keep it up!

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  13. I don't always know what my characters look like before I start writing. It's not until I start writing dialogue, and they begin playing with their hair or cracking their knuckles that I get a feel for what they look like.

    Other times, they're so vivid before I begin writing that I could draw their portrait myself.

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    1. Same for me, other than the drawing them myself thing. I can't even do stick figures.

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  14. I definitely can't write straight from a picture (I know because I tried once. That was also the one and only time I plotted a story. It's never been written...).
    But afterwards - at least once I'm halfway in - I start keeping an eye out and if I'm really lucky, will come across the exact right image.
    The funny thing is, it's usually... well, it's best if it's an old painting. Because the trouble with finding modern lookalikes is that they don't always match your character. For instance, there's one photo where Mike Wolfe from American Pickers *is* Santiago. But the rest of the time he just looks like himself, and he's not like Rosa's father at all :-)

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    1. I've never really felt the urge to look. Maybe when I'm stuck one day I'll find something to help though.

      I know what you mean about people, especially actors, changing from photo to photo. It does make it hard.

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