Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Seeing Your Characters

By Leisha Maw

I thought I knew my characters. I mean, I created them didn't I? I gave them a name, a purpose, a life. I gave them dialog and made them cry. I even gave them those good moments so they could feel warm fuzzies along with the reader.

But did I see them? Yes, although I admit they were a little fuzzy--until, under Jonene's excellent tutelage, I started drawing them. I know this is a writing blog, not an art blog, but stay with me here. Drawing my characters really made an impact on my writing. It crystallized how I saw my characters, and it made them so much more real to me. I mean, Vic, my main squeeze in one of my WIPs, went from this:

To this:

And he's still not done. I have to dress him and finish his hair and shade his neck and do all the little detail stuff like give him a bit of scruff, but the point is, when I think of him while I write, I know his features. It's the difference between being told coral is rough and stroking it with your fingertips. It's knowing. It's experiencing it. Vic is somehow embedded in my being now, and I never have to grope for a picture in the dark recesses of my mind. He's alive in there, and he's even cuter than I thought.

So, do you see your characters? What do you do to envision them?

Leisha Maw


  1. And they said you couldn't draw....
    while I personally find the 2nd one more appealing, I appreciate the effort that went in to the first!

  2. What I do to envision mine is watch actors' techniques in movies and on television. My characters don't look like said actors, but their expressions and mannerisms will be a mix of what I find fitting. I don't know why it is, but I find watching how an actor conveys an emotion or tone helps me get insight into how a character's intentions and emotions translate into action for a scene.

    As for what color their hair is and eyes and all that, I purposely go for variety. I avoid having too many blond people, for example, and very rarely have a red-head, since I had one as the main character in my first novel. I never really care what the characters in the books I read look like, so it's something I have to make myself put into my writing, because I've noticed a lot of readers really do care.

  3. Clancy, I'm still sweating from the first one. He he.

    Emily, isn't it funny how we can't just watch a movie any more? We have to analyze everything. But it works! :)

    Susan, thanks! :)

  4. You're right, he is cute.

  5. Wow. I wish I could draw. Your character is a hottie. :)

    I actually went to and created my characters. It was definitely helpful. I couldn't get them exactly how I wanted, but since I'm not an artist by a long shot, it was the closest I could get. And I feel like I can definitely see my characters better in my head.

  6. I'm so blown away! Wow, you did a great job, and it's been so fun watching the Vic in your mind come to life on paper! (The hair looks awesome! There's all those curls you've been wanting.)

  7. I'm not sure tbh. I make up notes about characteristics. If I were as good in drawing as you are (such a great art you did), then I might draw as well. I think Tolkien used to draw his images. I might look into it. Great tip.
    Nahno ∗ McLein

  8. Herbivore Meals, thanks! :)

    Karen, thanks for the tip about I'll have to check into that, too.

    Jonene, you taught me what little I know, so I owe it all to you. Thanks more than you know. :)

    Nahno, you are so sweet. Thanks. I do the notes and such, too. The drawing thing is still a new experience for me.

  9. The first picture does allow for my own imagination
    to fill in what I like.
    Always good.
    The drawing is fantastic.
    Talent abounds at your house.

    Okay, he's hot.

  10. Sandy, your imagination has to be good to fill in the details in the first one. He he.

    Anyonymous, I never noticed it before, but you are right it kind of does look like you know who. *Wink*

  11. Wow. I couldn't do that even if I wanted to. I start with a clear picture in my find that becomes sharper as I write.

  12. Leisha, that's gorgeous pencil work. The guy isn't bad either.

    I've tried several methods of visualizing my characters. I've drawn cartoons of them (somewhere between your #1 and #2), found pictures in magazines and cut them out, or used people I've seen in real life (shh, don't tell anyone!). But I think what works best for me is to find one unique concrete detail that defines the person in the mind of the reader, and then remind them of it whenever that character shows up. This worked really well in "The Book Theif" where the main character's best friend was repeatedly described as having lemon colored hair. That one detail let me see the whole kid in my mind.

  13. Shannon, isn't it interesting how the picture gets clearer as the character develops? Oh, and thanks. :)

    Rebecca, I loved The Book Thief. :) I've always been able to see the setting better than I could the people. Weird, huh?

  14. Wow. I don't even know what half my characters look like in the first place. Guess that's something to work on.

  15. Amber, think of the fun you'll have discovering them. I'm having a blast!


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