1. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    Mental Character Image

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by UnknownBearing, Jul 15, 2009.

    does anyone here always have a clear-cut image of the character in their head before they start writing? you know every physical aspect about the character, hair color, eye color, facial structure, birth marks, nose bridge, everything.

    i find that i often have no idea what my character looks like, besides maybe hair or eye color. but i know theres way more to a character than that, and i just often dont spend time thinking about it. even if i try to describe my characters in words, it doesnt anchor in any sort of mental image.

    so i started drawing pictures of what my characters might look like, and it actually helps a lot.

    [​IMG]

    it's not perfect, but it gives me a pretty good idea for what i'm aiming for. does anyone else do this, or have some other method of managing to anchor in a mental image of their character? or maybe you just dont have an image at all?
     
  2. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    I rarely have a very clear idea of what my characters look like. However, I always have a kinda fuzzy idea of what they look like, which I can refine as I write the story.

    I do have two characters that I know the exact appearance of, but that's because in my mind, they are played by Samuel L Jackson and Gwyneth Paltrow, respectively. ;)
     
  3. losthawken
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    losthawken Author J. Aurel Guay Role Play Moderator Contributor

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    I used to have a strict idea in my head, but lately I've decided that most of those details are better left up to the reader. The more I let the reader interpret the characters appearance the better chance I (hope to) have of the reader identifying with the character. As such I've started trying to include only what is necc. to set the mood and 'show' the characters personality.

    I do however, doodle my characters and scenes almost constantly.

    ~JG
     
  4. Infrared
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    Infrared New Member

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    At first, I thought you needed help describing the appearance of someone who was mentally handicapped... Anyway, there are some characters I see clear as day--I can imagine every single feature. And then, there are some characters I have a hard time seeing, which are usually my protagonists.

    There are many ways I go about developing a clear appearance in my head. Sometimes, I'll draw them, and sometimes I'll go through the portfolios of photographers. There are some models out there that can resemble a character's features. And no, they're not all glamor models--a lot of them look like average people.
     
  5. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    I usually start with an archetype in my head - a character from a movie or a friend or someone in history who I am basing my character off of.

    For instance, I have a father-figure in my current work who is also a Colonel in the military. In my head, he is based on Rip Torn (the head guy from MIB). One of the other characters is based on a former boss. The MC's gf is based on a girl I met at a hospital...

    I read that using archetypes is a good way of keeping track of who/what a character is. Like the Gandalf/Obi Wan "father" archetype. Or the Han Solo "jester" archetype.

    Here's an excellent list of such archetypes:
    http://www.listology.com/list/character-archetypes
     
  6. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    I usually have a general idea of what my character looks like - the details, such as whether the face is more elongated or not, are harder for me to picture, but I usually have a decent picture of my character inside my head, so it's no problem for me. Although, I do tend to have more problems visualizing my female characters.
     
  7. thabear637
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    thabear637 Member

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    I thought about doing that. I thought it might help my writing.

    BUT

    unfortunately my drawing is worse than my writing!

    I do try to draw them in my head though. Any detail I can think of, even if I don't plan on sharing that with the reader
     
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  8. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I usually pick out actors who would play the parts. In the short story I posted here for review, my main male character looks a little like Zach Braff, in my mind, only shorter. Unfortunately, the real man the character is based on, was not as good looking as Zach (in that dorky kind of way.)

    Usually, I just give my characters enough description, so that if it were played by the actors I picked out, then it would resemble what the reader may have pictured.

    I try not to give exact descriptions, because I prefer to let the reader use their imagination. Usually, this enhances the reading experience (at least for me when I find a book that does this.) I have a hard time finding that point though, between just enough and not enough. Something I'm still working on.
     
  9. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I usually pick out actors who would play the parts. In the short story I posted here for review, my main male character looks a little like Zach Braff, in my mind, only shorter. Unfortunately, the real man the character is based on, was not as good looking as Zach (in that dorky kind of way.)

    Usually, I just give my characters enough description, so that if it were played by the actors I picked out, then it would resemble what the reader may have pictured.

    I try not to give exact descriptions, because I prefer to let the reader use their imagination. Usually, this enhances the reading experience (at least for me when I find a book that does this.) I have a hard time finding that point though, between just enough and not enough. Something I'm still working on.
     
  10. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    I tend to spend time visualizing the situation my mc is embroiled in. Nothing too specific or detailed, but enough to give me an impression of what he's about, along with his basic look and shape. Now that I think about it, I sometimes 'click' on people from my life I may have looked up to or had positive experiences with, and, of course, the opposite for antagonists.
     
  11. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    Nothing I write is ever predetermined. My characters shape themselves just like the rest of the story. Although, to be fair, I've realised that my characters need to shape themselves a lot more. I see characters as fuel - I only add them in if their needed, but when they are in, they are essential to the story. Seen as I like to develope my characters slowly, as it gives them more depth, it suits my style of writing where the story developes over time too. Plus, I personally would abhor having to fill in one of those character sheet things where it has like their allergies etc....
     
  12. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    i like what everybody's saying about picking actors, or people they know in real life to "play" their character. i actually did think about that once "if this story were a movie, who would i cast?" but i actually found myself picking people i already knew, mostly at school, not real actors.

    i should try that more often, loosely base an image of a certain person irl.

    lol, yeah i dont really like that either...
     
  13. ravenflutterby
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    ravenflutterby New Member

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    I like to have to basics before I start to write, hair and eye colour, body type and dress sense. Sometimes I have an image of an actor who I think would look like them in mind but nothing concrete. If the story calls for a detailed description then I'll figure somethings out through necessity.
     
  14. Kirvee
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    Kirvee Contributing Member

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    I usually have an image in my head, but because my memory tends to fail on me at times when I need it, I prefer to draw out reference pictures of any characters I might have (that get major or minor roles and aren't just meant to be one-time characters). This way I can remember what their hair looks like, what the clothes they wear look like and where any distinguishing marks on their body/face are.

    But if you don't have any artistic skill, then an alternative is to write out their description in as much detail as you can in order to be able to accurately picture the character again.
     
  15. OneMoreNameless
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    OneMoreNameless Contributing Member

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    I can never manage to imagine what my characters physically look like, even after I've finished writing a piece. In a few cases I'll have certain specific details in mind beforehand (a scar, long dusty hair, their height or build if it's relevant), but trying to picture the whole body is just a blank. Even when playing through possible scenes I only think of personalities, actions and the setting as a whole rather than individual appearances.
     
  16. ChaseRoberts
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    ChaseRoberts Senior Member

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    My first character began life as looking very similar to a physics teacher at my school, who's sole purpose in life was to be a bully, and picked on the weaker kids. In the past thirteen years he's morphed a lot, and now looks like, well, himself.

    I like to have a visual image of my characters. I draw them a lot, but since my drawing is like what my physics skills used to be, they never quite turn out like how I imagine them.

    On saying that, some characters in my novel never physically changed. Both Janice and Bart are exactly how I described them when I began writing. Of course, the way I describe them has matured a lot, but they still look the same in my mind now as I did when I first came up with them.

    And of course, I've been kind of naughty with some of the lesser characters, and drawn in physical traits and personality quirks that are from people I know. It's a good way to quietly character assassinate someone... :) I get a little giggle when I see them on the page.
     
  17. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I rarely have a clear image so I usually just pick an actor to focus on and build the character around their appearance.

    Although with my current story, one of the main characters was based off of somebody who is not an actor. The story behind that is a bit disturbing. lol
     
  18. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    ^
    Actually, this is pretty much exactly what I do.
     

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