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  1. Roux
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    Roux Member

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    Seeing Your Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Roux, May 3, 2011.

    So I'm sure most of us can agree that when reading we often picture it as a movie, whether with movie stars, friends, family, etc. etc....but is it the same for you with writing?

    For me, it has to be. I have a hard time writing a scene or chapter if I can't picture every tiny detail of the characters, even if some of those details never make it into my book. I actually use people I know in my everyday life from school as my characters appearances and a little bit of a tweaked personality. I find it better to write like this, because if you can't see your own characters how is your reader supposed too?

    Just wondering how many of you use people you know or celebrities as character appearances?
     
  2. MrSchofield
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    MrSchofield New Member

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    Its easier for us to use thing's we're familiar with, whether it be places, people or objects. Most would certainly do what you do, I know I do.
     
  3. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    I've never liked the 'picture it as a movie' notion when it comes to reading. While delivering 'visual' imagery is a huge driving force in fiction, and good fiction manages to let us clearly 'see' the story, great fiction goes a step deeper, triggering more than just 'see it as a movie' levels of imagination and instead more of a LARPing sort of thing, or method acting, where you aren't just seeing the action, but are instead experience the action.

    So, no, I don't really subscribe to the 'see it like a movie' style or notion as a reader, and especially not as a writer. For instance, I don't know what one of my main character's faces even looks like exactly, because he never looked in a mirror or thought about his own looks in a story, so it didn't come up.

    Secondary characters, then sure, knowing all the external details is handy, and using examples from real life might help.

    Keep in mind, though, strong details and descriptions are only as important as their relevance to the MC or story.
     
  4. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Hmm. Well, I do picture the books (particularly the current wolf story I'm working on) as a kind of movie in my head. I can see everything unfold in my mind, what they all look like, their surroundings, everything. I suppose it's a bit deeper than that though since I know how they feel as well. So perhaps it's a bit like LARPing. Maybe I just have an incredibly over-active imagination though, lol.

    When I write it, my goal is that the MC's fears, hopes, and dreams, anger, sorrow, and joy, will become my readers. Not that they will see it as a movie, but that they will feel the cold of the snow against their legs, hear the sounds of teeth crunching bones and smell the scent of blood mingling with the pine in the frost bitten air. Will I accomplish all that I set out to do? Probably not. But it won't be for lack of trying and I don't think it will be because it started off as a movie running through my head. It'll just be because I failed and I'll have to learn from that.
     
  5. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with Trish. I see characters, mine or another's, as kind of like a movie. Only I also see it as real as well. It's kind of like both. It's part movie, but it's deeper. It's kind of like a big ole mental hybrid.
     
  6. Midnight_Adventurer
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    Midnight_Adventurer Active Member

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    Picturing every scene in my head as if it were a movie doesn't really work for me, mostly because I can't watch a movie and write at the same time, lol. Usually I visualise scenes when I'm not writing, I can imagine most details then and also work out what's going to happen in a specific scene so when I do sit down to write about it I know exactly where my characters are and what they're doing.
     
  7. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Man, I'm getting into it and I haven't even read it yet. :p

    I don't tend to see or cast my characters either. I get a strong impression of personality, I'm not sure whether from years of people watching and a bit of acting, or just because I'm an awesome writer and it's a good writer-y skill to instantly feel your character. But really, once you know how they hold their elbows as they walk and a sort of sense of colour and hair and neatness/sloppiness, etc, all the other things that come in the instant image of them, I don't really press for more details.

    There's one of my mainest main characters ever, the best friend and rival to the very Melzaar I'm named after here, who I've written for 5-6 years and never knew what he looked liked. It took until basically this month when I was watching a TV show and one of the guys in it had all the correct mannerisms, sarcasm, hair colour and smooth good looks that I finally got a clear picture. He was always just his mannerisms, personality, and an undefined blonde hair style of some sort to me. Now I finally know what he looks like, but that never stopped him being utterly beloved by many of my adoring fans on the interwebs who gave me my ego boosts as a kid. :p I know that from my descriptions of everything else, because I skipped his face, everyone just filled in a blank anyway. I don't think if I were to try writing him again I would include a more detailed description because the blank in a character's face is the best part. Sometimes a reader might be hideously wrong compared to what you think, but as long as they aren't mistaking you to the point of ruining the plot, then it's fine.

    I learned my lesson reading Matilda. Somehow I imagined Miss Trunchbull as being a tiny hag-like old woman, because we were listening to the audio book in class so there were no illustrations to help out my young mind. When she picked up that girl and swung her around it totally shook me out of my misconception, and since then I've made an effort to read everything properly. :p

    Although, it was an audiobook, so I could well have just sneezed and missed an important part. :p
     
  8. AmbitiousK
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    AmbitiousK New Member

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    Seeing my characters, for me is a given thing. I agree with what Roux said. If you can't see them, your readers won't be able to either. It helps most of the time to think of it as a movie but it does run a lot deeper than that. It's even more exciting for us because it's our creation so to speak.

    :)
     
  9. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Suddenly I'm not really sure how I picture things when I write. I usually go through it several times in my mind before writing to see what works, and then just write. While reading, I kind of feel like I'm in the movie. That's why I've often preferred books over movies. When it comes to my characters, I need to have a good idea of what they look like. That's true when I'm reading as well. I can't connect with characters I have no idea what looks like. It doesn't need to be detailed or anything, but there must be something.
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I have found in the past that picturing my story as a film hurt my writing, limiting my scope to what can be presented on the screen in the here and now and making it much too dialogue-heavy. But that's just me.

    LARPing? Translation, please.
     
  11. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    LARP = Live Action Role Playing

    Also sometimes called "interactive literature". I just looked it up to see how much info was available and there's a lot. A quick google should tell you more than you ever wanted to know, lol.
     
  12. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've always been able to see my characters vividly in my head. If I couldn't then I'm sure I'd lose interest in writing about them quite early on. It's being able to imagine them that makes them feel real, rather than them just being a few words on a page.
     
  13. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    My scenes don't exactly play out in a movie in my head, there's a lot more than that to it. It's more as if I'm a director in the movie, I walk around the set (yes, I physically walk around if there's enough room), talk to the characters, get their impressions of things, then let them act out the scene. While the scene is playing, I play the part of the cameraman, capturing the scene as it unfolds. If I see something that's not quite right, I can stop the scene, talk to the characters, and start it again from wherever I like.

    Because of this approach, I definitely see the characters' faces. The interesting thing to note, though, since I generally write in very close 3rd person, when I'm the cameraman, I'm also riding along with my point of view character. I'll never see my POV character's face while a scene is playing out unless he happens to look in a mirror or something like that, but I will see the character's face when I break action and talk to him or her.

    I don't tend to use real-life faces, and definitely not in whole; my characters are unique people all on their own, they don't look like anyone but themselves (well, they look *like* other people, but I tend to think that everyone looks like someone else I know, so that doesn't mean a whole lot).
     
  14. Thom
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    Thom Member

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    I like to give descriptions to my characters, and have good descriptions in return when I'm reading someone else story. It helps in picturing them and completing the 'image' in my head.
    What I also do is find a picture of an actor, preferably in a similar role to the one I'm writing and base towards that, whether live action of anime.
    It's great too when I come across a picture that just screams my character in every way. As to say, 'Damn, that's her!!"
     
  15. Ophiucha
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    Ophiucha Member

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    I'm not sure I see things as a movie when I read, really. And certainly not when I write. I've tried "casting" my characters for fun before, but it never sticks because their appearance just isn't that important in most cases, and if it is, it is something that is at least a bit specific to them.
     
  16. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    No, thanks. Just wondered what it was. Never occurred to me that it might be an established term. Guess my age is showing. :redface:
     
  17. Gothic Vampire Queen
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    Gothic Vampire Queen Member

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    Well, mine was........very weird.....lol

    Okay, well, one day I was doing yoga and I was just lying there with my eyes closed, listening to the ocean sound cd and then a woman with dark red hair wearing a black victorian dress came into my mind.

    The scary thing is that I was browsing "Gothic females" on yahoo and I saw a image of the woman that came into my mind. Let me go look for it and I will update you on that.

    Let me make it clear that before the yoga thing, I never ever saw this woman before. She just....appeared in my mind.
     
  18. Drusilla
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    Drusilla Active Member

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    I agree fully with the threadstarter. I can not write without being able to see every teensy weensy little detail inside my head. Sometimes I imagine that I watch a movie about my characters with different situations that never come into my project. For example "what if" situations that I might write about or situations that I just "play" inside my mind to see the characters' reactions.

    I never use people I know to portray the characters, and I rarely use movie stars. For my main character, I partly used a less known actress (without even knowing that I did) who has played a minor character in a TV show I used to watch when I was younger.
    For one of my stricter male characters, I partly used a teacher I had when I was 7 years old (who wasn't strict at all! weird?). His appearance might have appeared strict to me.
    And for some other characters, I use pictures of people I have seen on myspace.
    And some just come from my mind.
     
  19. Sang Hee
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    Sang Hee Contributing Member

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    I think that when you're writing your first draft you can skip any imagining. You're telling a story i.e. what happens, not how everything looks like!! For me it works best to add details later after careful thinking because I also want the reader's imagination to take part as well.
    I don't know how the others do it but I always draw a character's portrait when I create them or at least I do with the important characters.
     
  20. eMotive-
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    eMotive- Member

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    Yes, I actually do imagine scenes from my writing as playing out in a movie. It makes things easier to describe in terms of feeling, or tension, or character personality, etc etc.
     
  21. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Stories that I am reading do unfold in my head in a similar fashion to a movie, I suppose, though they tend to be more detailed. I do not like to write as though I am watching a movie in my head, however. I've read books where it seemed as though the author was more or less trying to write a movie, and they were generally shallow. Writing for screen or stage doesn't require the detail level of a novel or short story. You are depending on actors to bring the characters to life. Yes there is characterization via dialog and other methods, but the actor is going to make or break the character. I've been invariably disappointed by books where I felt the writer was basically transcribing a movie from his head.

    As for character description, I don't like a lot of it and don't give a lot of it in my stories. Just a few pertinent details. I form an image of a character very early on when reading a story and it doesn't very much after that, no matter what details the author chooses to insert. If they aren't details that are important to the story itself, I ignore them in view of my own vision of the character, and I believe that most readers do this. So if you are trying to create for the reader the precise image of the character that you have in mind - forget it. You can't. Once the reader has established her own mental image of the character, at best you'll simply be giving detail that she ignores, and at worst you'll be pulling her out of the story with information that doesn't jive with what is in her head.
     
  22. Gothic Vampire Queen
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    Gothic Vampire Queen Member

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  23. Leatherworth Featherfist
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    Leatherworth Featherfist Member

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    I find it hard not to use some form of trait borrowed from someone I know or myself when I write characters. Unless I am writing fantasy and I make a point of completely fabricating the characters.

    For me it makes writing more interesting if I can somewhat relate to the characters. Although I do enjoy going outside my comfort zone, it just takes more practice.
     
  24. Gothic Vampire Queen
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    Gothic Vampire Queen Member

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    By the way, I don't like to include the exact physical features of my characters in paper. I like to leave it to the readers imagination. Because the way I see my character (if I did include it), may not be the same as the way you, as a reader, view her.

    Key word: Imagination, folks!

    :)
     
  25. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    I don't imagine my characters as I write them. It's hard to explain, but it's sort of like -- I see them without actually imagining them. Oh, sure, I do set down a few traits to help readers tell them apart, but I never really imagine them visually, and if I do, it's very vague.
     

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