1. jacklondonsghost
    Offline

    jacklondonsghost Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2010
    Messages:
    1,039
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Buffalo, NY

    Photos for characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by jacklondonsghost, Jan 26, 2010.

    Hi everyone, just wanted to see if anyone else uses this method during character development.

    What I usually do is I develop the basic character: their age, gender, and most importantly their inner character. Wants, desires, values, and their purpose in the story.

    I never describe them physically however. If I try to do that, I always catch myself adding their description to the prose in unnecessary amounts. I think it is because I myself am at that point unsure of how they look exactly.

    So, to solve this problem, I simply browse around stock photo sites until I find a person who fits my basic idea of the character. This can give you interesting physical character traits to utilize, and also helps keep you from putting too much character description in the prose.

    Anyone else do anything similar? Anyone think this is silly?
     
  2. Lost for Words
    Offline

    Lost for Words New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2009
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    1
    Anything that works for you can never be silly.

    I personally don't do anything like this, but physical appearance isn't on my mind until it pops up in the story. I don't sit down and manually develop my characters. They show me little facets of themselves when I need to know about them.

    *'manually develop'- what?*
     
  3. soujiroseta
    Offline

    soujiroseta Senior Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2008
    Messages:
    199
    Likes Received:
    26
    Location:
    Harare, Zimbabwe
    I'm kinda the opposite. I have to know everything about them, including how they look (which can change throughout the course of the story). I also employ the photo technique and as such always spend hours looking through shots of people who could look like my character, it's very rare though for me to actually change anything but someone with similar traits works just as well.
     
  4. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I don't go hunting for images. I start out with a general mental image of my character, which grows more detailed as I write. Not just the details I write down, but everythng gets clearer.

    It's just like seeing the same person day after day - te more you get to know them, the more clearly you can see them when you close your eyes. You know what they look like when they laugh, when they are angry, when they're in a funk, etc.

    But I also don't tend to collect photos of my real life people, either, and maybe that's because of how I see them in my mind. No picture does them justice. I suspect most other people don't remember their people that way, judging on how they tend to surround themselves with photographs.

    What works for me probably does not work for you, and vice versa.
     
  5. ronmatt
    Offline

    ronmatt Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Paradise, CA
    I'm a visual person. Although I seldom use a multitude of 'characters' in the way I write, I can see where having a 'visual' of my character would be beneficial.
    I just did a little experiment on this. I wrote a little outline describing 2 people. Then I went online and found images that I thought were, in essence, these people ( took about 15 minutes ) Those photos are on my desktop now and I really think that they'll help me, in the long run...but that's me, and you're not.
     
  6. writewizard
    Offline

    writewizard Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2009
    Messages:
    840
    Likes Received:
    7
    I'm a visual person, although I think I may have to try that technique when setting up for a new character. I try and stick to designing my own characters when I can. Except, of course, in fanfiction.
     
  7. LastTrainHome
    Offline

    LastTrainHome Member

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2009
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    1
    I've drawn what I think one of my characters may look like (it was a scene of three charcters actually...) and I have considered during times of writers block to draw some of my other characters, but I have never used a photograph.
     
  8. edens garden
    Offline

    edens garden Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2008
    Messages:
    126
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Saratoga Springs, NY
    I have a large collection of photos (more fantasy/portrait artwork). I don't find a picture to match my character, but sometimes I will see a characteristic in the photo that I also see in my character, so I use it almost as a way to gather ideas as I get to know them.
     
  9. dropkicker
    Offline

    dropkicker Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2010
    Messages:
    18
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    New York, New York
    I don't look for photos online to generate how my characters look like. I take the time to draw them out and I try to imagine them in a comic book. This has always worked best for me.
     
  10. Neoaptt
    Offline

    Neoaptt Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2010
    Messages:
    212
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Utah
    I don't ever actually picture my character in my head until after i have finished writing. And even then there isn't much i could tell you. But this of course is for anything non fantasy.

    For fantasy i make a complete antorage as to what the character looks like. I even draw him/her from time to time. Although i don't go into much detail about the character. I do however, know what he/she looks like.
     
  11. Endricte
    Offline

    Endricte Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2010
    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Michigan
    My characters are usually pretty general. Maybe age, body build, whether they are attractive or not. I'll form a mental picture in my head, but don't spend too much time with physical appearances.
     
  12. mattattack007
    Offline

    mattattack007 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2009
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    0
    That always annoyed me when I looked at people's writing. I just form a mental picture of them.
    If it works for u, go ahead. Just don't use celebrity's pictures.
     
  13. FishKettle
    Offline

    FishKettle Member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2010
    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    0
    I don't think I've ever used a picture to create a character (unless its been within my art work,).

    I do however have moments where I'm out and about with friends in the city and I will see someone and cry out to my friends: "Look there goes such-and-such." And they will nod and we will stand there admiring said character look-alike.

    Descriptions are also not my strong point, I like to let who ever is reading see the characters for themselves.
     
  14. Anonym
    Offline

    Anonym Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2010
    Messages:
    292
    Likes Received:
    10
    A few of my characters have peculiar appearances, & it has helped to seek out a frame of reference on occasion. Other than for aspect mmodeling tho, i don't really care to over-articulate any part of my char that doesn't develop on its own. yeah
     
  15. BBWalter
    Offline

    BBWalter Member

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2010
    Messages:
    64
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Illinois - US
    Some stories demand I find a picture of a real person to go by; other stories' characters are more of a hodge-podge of traits taken from real people and fantasy artwork. I don't believe any method is the fast and hard, tried and true of how to do it...but I've always been a big fan of visual inspiration. I even keep copies of some of my characters posted around the house. They help force me back to my keyboard when I sometimes let life get in the way of art. :) Pictures can be very motivating...and can make you feel really guilty for raiding the 'fridge for ice cream when you could be working. :p

    BB
     
  16. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,834
    Likes Received:
    10,013
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    There was a time when I did this as well. I would hunt for images on the web looking for just the right face, pose, look, hair, eyes, nose, clothing....

    Hours and hours spent doing this.

    And then I admitted to myself that this was just another facet of procrastination and avoiding my writing.
     
  17. BBWalter
    Offline

    BBWalter Member

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2010
    Messages:
    64
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Illinois - US
    Ah, I could see how it would be a form of procrastination. I rarely spend more than half an hour looking; if I can't find something immediately, I stop. Of course, I do generally have an idea of who the person looks like before I begin. :) As far as the fantasy artwork, I already have a folder full of stuff I can clip and reassemble from to make the perfect (or almost perfect) pic for motivation. That stuff I collect whenever I'm on the web and see something I like.

    bb
     
  18. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,834
    Likes Received:
    10,013
    Location:
    Puerto Rico

    I still do collect images, don't get me wrong.

    Right now I have a story where images of abandoned places is very much part of what is going on, and wowzers, there is a glut of "abandoned place" images to be found on the web.

    I've learned to be more disciplined and allow this kind of research only the time it deserves, but in the past I let it become a vice, a way of pretending I was still in the writing process when I was really only pushing the words around on the page, so to speak. :)
     
  19. BBWalter
    Offline

    BBWalter Member

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2010
    Messages:
    64
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Illinois - US
    I can see that! And I love that turn of phrase - "...pushing the words around on the page..." :)

    bb
     
  20. hiddennovelist
    Offline

    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2009
    Messages:
    10,256
    Likes Received:
    161
    Location:
    Fabulous Sin City
    I envy those of you who draw their characters. I want to draw my characters when I'm trying to flesh out their physical description, but I can't draw. Boo.

    This may sound a little creepy, but if I'm looking through a magazine and see a picture of someone with eyes, lips, etc that stand out, I cut that feature out and put it in a binder. So I've got a binder full of random parts of people that I use if I'm having a really tough time visualizing what my character looks like. It helps me sometimes. Or sometimes I just randomly see something, and suddenly my characters face just appears in my mind. I once visualized a character based soley off of a coffee press I sold at work. That was fun. :)
     
  21. PJ.Paradox
    Offline

    PJ.Paradox Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2010
    Messages:
    29
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well unless you're making picture books you can't rely on photos to convey your writing. Description is just part of the writing process, and if this is a weak spot for you then it's something you should begin practicing.

    That said, I DO occasionally use photos in Character creation, but I use them in a very different way. Sometimes if i have a general idea of the topic or culture elements I want to include in a story, but don't have a sense of character personality yet I will scower the net for images the meet certain criteria, pick one, and begin to ask myself "If this was my character, what events lead to the person being portrayed as they are in the photograph? What is he or she thinking right now?"

    An example might be if I wanted to write a story that involves Korea, dance, and has a female main character, I might search for "Korean Woman Dancing" I'll look at the pictures that come up... see if they inspire more plot ideas... maybe I want something that focuses on traditional dance, so I'll add the word traditional in my next search... or maybe I decide I want to contrast traditional and hip hop in my story so I'll look for one of each image using the original search terms and then the appropriate other words added to them and then go from there.

    From there I elaborate until I have a complete sense of presence and personality, and then ultimately discard the photo because if I have those things a photograph is no longer needed because I have words which are infinitely more versatile, and useful in describing the needs of your own scenes.
     
  22. MoonlitMasquerade
    Offline

    MoonlitMasquerade New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2010
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    In the grand place called "my mind". Whe
    I do this too! :) My last character I decided I didn't want to make up what she looks like because I usually go about with almost the same looking characters, don't know why. But yeah.
    But I go through photos all the time in search for my character.
    This time I went on deviantArt (God, I love DA!) and typed in "witches" in the search bar and I looked through photos for an inspiration for my character. And then I finally found one! And she has so many photos. She's a photographer and it's actually the photographer who gave me the inspiration. It was one of her self-portraits and a lot of her other photography has inspired bits into my writing.
    I emailed her and asked her if I could use her pictures as my characters while I develop them and she said yes. :) Also, I found out she does book covers!! So I will definitely email her again in the future.
    She's done one of the non-american covers for Vampire Diaries by L.J Smith. How cool is that?! I love the Vampire Diaries books. :love: L.J Smith is a lovely woman.

    But anyway, back on topic. lol
    DeviantArt is one of the best places to look for inspiration for your characters. :)
     
  23. Athena33
    Offline

    Athena33 New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2010
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Washington State
    I try to draw my characters, as well as research people with the same physical features. The researching images works better because my drawings are never the same
     
  24. cressida_tt
    Offline

    cressida_tt Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2010
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    UK
    I often find inspiration in the things I find around me, usually it is just places I have been so that I get them right. Occasionally though I find myself using someone I have seen as the template for a minor character if they fit with what I had in mind. It helps with continuity as you have a clear picture of them in your head.
     
  25. acwriter
    Offline

    acwriter New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2010
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    I am a visual person, but at first I usually have a mental picture of what my character looks like. I also use photographs, and create collages and sketches. The fantasy novel I am currently working on involves a lot of period writing and I recently discovered a cool site called Polyvore. You can create all different kinds of collages, its amazing for getting a real picture of your character in a scene.
     

Share This Page