1. ellebell16
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    ellebell16 Member

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    Character Appearance

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by ellebell16, Nov 26, 2010.

    It's very important to me to have a vivid idea of what the character will look like in my head. Usually, I'll think of someone I've met/seen before and tweak their image around a bit until I get something new, but generally based off of that person.

    My question is...how do you personally create the character's image when writing fiction? Do you imagine a totally new person or base it off of an existing person (like you neighbor or a celeb)? Is it bad to base a characters looks (LOOKS, not personality/quirks/traits) off of somebody else?
     
  2. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Since I'm actually an artist, I usually start with drawing the character using random idea's that come to my head that are inspired by other drawings or stories. Over months or even years, that design changes as I become a better artist/writer.
    I don't think it's bad if you base it off someone, it might give it that unique touch :)
     
  3. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I generally don't like doing that... I tend to look at people and class them into basic types when it comes to face structure, colouration, etc. Then when I need a character the sort of idea of how they should be comes into my head, but never an increeeedibly clear picture. Sometimes if I write a character for long enough I'll draw them, and if I like them a lot, I'll draw them many times, and that's about the only time I start getting anything like a clear idea of them. Mostly, though... I just have a shadowy impression of hair colour, stature, and style, along with mannerisms, personality, etc and things that are a lot more important - I'll only briefly discuss their outer appearance, if at all in their initial introduction, and only later build on those details as I get to know them.
     
  4. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    I will describe characters, but do not feel the need to. Indeed, I often don't - or do so as an afterthought. I always figure I can give a stock description (ie young woman or police officer or hound dog) and the reader will fill in all the details. Figure it will make the story a bit more real to the reader as it will be a composit of their experiences.

    What description I give, though, I try to do early so I can intercept and alter those expectations.

    -Frank
     
  5. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    I start with the ethnicity/race. After that, I start to research how they are expected to look. From there, I tweak their appearance to my liking. However, there are times when I'm inspired to start with something I saw on TV then, from there, begin to make the big changes. It's a rare occurrence, though.
     
  6. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't spend much conscious effort on appearance. If I have a clear idea of a character, an appearance which fits them often springs into my mind. Only the basic traits, though, like tall or short, thin or fat, sloppy or well-groomed, cheap or expensive clothing, race/ethnicity, etc. Things which are closely related to their personality or social circumstances, or which contribute to the immediate expression you get of them.
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have different characters - most I created myself, gave a name, decided what they looked like - some of that is determind by race.

    Then I have the ones that their creation happened instantly - they had a name and an appearance (for example Angus - blonde hair, blue eyed, 6ft10 built like a behemoth. Damocles I knew he was built like a behemoth as well around the same height but he had long dark curly hair and bushy black beard. Deep brown eyes).

    Then I have Socrates - he came out of a John Barrowman music video, walked into my head shook my hand and said hello my name is Socrates. So he looks like John Barrowman in certain photos, video shots (but finding Socrates amongst those pictures isn't easy it is just certain looks etc).

    Then I had to come up with Nathaniel Smith - he was a spy in my first book. Has an abilty to project an image and personality. The real Nate never came out. In my second I had to work him out it was hardwork. As I had Captain Jack as my MC decided to go with Dr Who not quite so he is a cross between David Tennant/Rick Astley/Robert Carlyle they inspired him one day. His personality more Peter Kay.

    The Abbot looks like Michael Ball with red hair and green eyes lol and Uncle Tom like Paul O'Grady.

    I don't think is bad it is quite nice for inspiration I get to go to youtube and even get to see some of my characters interacting lol
     
  8. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I typically get an idea of what they look like and 'cast' an appropriate actor in the role, or sometimes just create an appearance around a specific actor altogether. It's kinda lame but it helps me make knowing what the character looks like less of a problem so I can focus on everything else.
     
  9. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    It's not something I put much emphasis on- I'd rather know what my character sounds like, how they think, how they speak. Appearance is usually one of the last things that comes to me. I guess as I get to know them I slowly build up an image in my mind- how would they carry themselves, what would they wear, how do they style their hair etc. Once I know how they see themselves and how others see them, I can think about the physical details.
     
  10. Newfable
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    Newfable Senior Member

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    I'd like to say that I'm original when it comes to character creation and look, but my eyes and subconscious tag team and pick up a lot of what I don't notice. Usually, halfway through making a character, I may notice that it's a lot like so-and-so, in one way or another.
     
  11. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    These days I think that 'less is more' when it comes to describing a character's appearance.

    I remember reading something years back (I can't recall quite what it was, maybe something by H.G. Wells or Hemingway), and being shocked at how little was said about the way the characters looked. It felt lacking to me then, but in actual fact, it allowed me as the reader to build my own picture of them, based on what is really important - their actions and words.

    When I write now, I try to form an overall 'picture' of the character, especially what motivates them, and go from there.

    But yeah, it has happened that I've suddenly thought '(s)he looks a bit like...'
     
  12. AshaLee1627
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    AshaLee1627 New Member

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    It's interesting to read people's responses thus far, it sounds like they put a lot less weight on character appearance as I expected. As a new writer, I find it very helpful to have a literal picture to work with (along with other information about their personality and background). However, I struggle using actors, classmates, or officemates as points of reference, as I start to think too much about their traits rather than just their physical appearance. So I'm certain this isn't the best way, but I go to Google Images, type in a few of the attributes I'm thinking of (ethnicity, age, hair color) and just start scanning pictures until I see my character staring back at me.
     
  13. darthjim
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    darthjim Member

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    Me also. I have folder and folders and yet more folders, all full to bursting with character, vehicle and scenery design for stories. For me, the visual always informs the written, at least in this aspect.

    As for using real folk as the basis for a character's looks, I personally shy away from it. You never know who you might offend.

    Of course, as I frequently base personality traits of my characters on people I know, this makes me an enormous hypocrite, but I can live with that. Because.
     
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    You don't have to an artist to start with a drawing - I have 0 artistic talent but that is how my writing started with a pad and pen and a doodle of Angus.
     
  15. rainy
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    rainy Senior Member

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    Once I have their name picked and a solid foothold on the story plot, the main character is already a visual in my head. Naturally, as the story progresses, so does the char but this tends to be more toward personality facets than looks. I may weave in some "trademark" to the char--tattoo, piercing, or so forth. But developing their psychology is far more amusing IMO. As new chars are introduced, I usually know what they look like right off the bat. I double-check that the look meshes well with their circumstance (environment, lineage, etc) and proceed.

    As far describing them, I find it best-personally-to pepper in description as you go. I dislike the block info-dump of description. I hate when it gets down to describing every nook, cranny and contour. If it's an emphasis, give the char one. We don't need nose shape, jaw shape, and brow shape. Really. Pick one and get moving. I find most times when the detail becomes that precise, the writer has lost me. Anyway, I prefer to see the most prominent trait mentioned early on so we're all on the same, er, page, and the rest can come as needed. Or not at all.

    I can't think of one char that I've based on someone real, either that I know or that I've seen on TV. I don't think it's *bad* to base your char on, at least, aspects of someone, but I prefer to let the char run on its own. I do tend to study people's motives and interactions and glean char development from that, but that's more mental than physical.

    However, if I have a long-standing char, occasionally I have fun browsing Google images for celebs--or anyone, really--that could fit the bill. Often it's not without some modifications: "The facial features are perfect, but needs to cut and dye hair. . ."

    All in all, it's most important that the char is real and unique.

    //R
     
  16. TokyoVigilante
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    TokyoVigilante Member

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    I think basing appearances off of actors is a good idea. Keep it obscure of course! I know that Jeoff Loeb based characters in his Batman comics physically off of stars of Noir and crime films from the 30s (and if you know anything about Noir and Batman then you know how totally cool that is).
     
  17. Samurai Jack
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    Samurai Jack Active Member

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    Hardly Anything

    I use a South Park avatar generator.

    All my time spent on character creation is invested in personality, history, motivations, actions... physical appearance is an afterthought unless there is a prominent feature worth mentioning.
     
  18. AshaLee1627
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    AshaLee1627 New Member

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    I think, after re-reading some posts, that there's a distinction to be made here between character appearance in your mind versus what is described to the reader. I think it's beneficial, as a writer, to know a character inside and out (physically, emotionally, etc), though it may not be necessary to incorporate all of those details into the story itself.
     
  19. The Tall Man
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    The Tall Man New Member

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    Sometimes I'll ask myself if my story were a movie, who would I pick to play that character. Other characters sometimes the way I would imagine them to look just comes to me.
     
  20. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Artistic Ability

    Personally I am an artist. I usually start with an idea of a person I've seen or a person type: e.g. fat, skinny, young, old, etc. from there I sketch and refine. I find that if you can draw it is a very useful skill. I was a professional artist for years, I so it helps me also to not waste the skill while I write.
     
  21. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Landmarks

    I agree I don't think it's bad to use famous references. We do it every day in real life. e.g.: Did you see that dude who just got hired, he looks like Patrick Stewart with a wig.

    People tend to like "landmarks" even when describing people.
     
  22. TheDave
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    TheDave Member

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    Coming up w/ original physical descriptions is a great challenge. I often picture actors or just someone I know as a baseline, then take bits of that person and translate them into a fresh character.
    When my wife suggested a character from my current work sounded like TV personality Anthony Bourdain, it struck a chord and I revised my entire description, which helped to inject a better flavor component to him.
    I avoid lengthy physical descriptions except when I decide it is called for. In this same story I spend an entire paragraph waxing poetic on a mc's eyebrows. I used as a model actress Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl - don't laugh if you don't watch!).
    A favorite line from a favorite movie All About Eve: "She looks like she could burn down a plantation."

    DK
     
  23. write_star
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    write_star Member

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    Good question! Because I write fanfiction, 90% of my work is done for me when it comes to character development. But when I design my original characters, I just start with a blank mental sketch of a person, chose their gender, identifying scars, marks, etc, traits. They usually develop throughout the course of the story.
     

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