A picture is worth….?

What my characters look like is important to me. I’m one of the most visual people you will ever meet. Yes, I’m nosy, and will ask 1 million questions when I meet you, but…

I will also be looking you over from head to toe. Not blatantly; not rudely; but very, very  intensely. The color of your hair, eyes, the way you carry yourself, the clothes you wear, if you wear flats or high heels… all those things are important to me. And the reason they are is because when I think about you, the person, I get a mental picture of what you actually look like. One of the greatest things about smart phones is when you’re receiving a call from somebody now you can actually have their picture show up on the display  as the phone is ringing so you know exactly who it is  calling. Love that.

But I digress.

Whenever I start a new book and I get to meet my characters, I always look for pictures online or in magazines of people I think they will resemble. For instance, in my most recent novel, First Impressions, Clarissa Rogers in my mind was a young looking Julia Roberts. Think Steel Magnolias. Mid back length curly cinnamon colored hair, flashing chocolate colored eyes. Padrick  Cleary  is a dead ringer for Matt Bomer. A simply gorgeous, delicious man.

mattbomer julia_roberts

When I was writing the book and creating dialogue between the two I actually had their pictures on my desk so that I could refer to them while I was writing dialogue tags and visceral descriptions.  I do this with all my stories. I need to know what my people look like when they are smiling, frowning, crying, and  even eating. It shouldn’t surprise you to discover you can find pictures of just about anyone well known doing anything from sleeping to running, online. And yes I will admit, I feel a little voyeuristic when I do this, but for the creative processes of description and narration it really is beneficial for me to have an actual photograph of  what I think my character looks like.

We live in a very visual society. How we look to others is way more important than it should be, but is a very telling fact. When someone reads my  novels I really want them to get a feel for  what the characters look like. I do this when I read other people’s books. I have a picture in my mind based on the author’s description of the character and I try to liken it to someone well known to me, be it an actress, actor or even a personal friend.  This really gets me invested in the story. I simply love knowing what people look like, characters as well.  I’ve read some stories that will describe the character as, “a young Julie Andrews”  or “Marlon Brando –ish.”  That’s all well and good and it does bring a picture of what the character looks like to your mind. But for my purposes I would rather describe the young Julie Andrews, denoting her short cropped golden blonde hair and centered, angular chin to my reader than to let them fill in the blanks.  This may have something to do with my sense of wanting to be in control of what the reader thinks when they read my words. I’ll have to ponder on that and get back to you…

So, when you write your character descriptions, do you have someone in mind they resemble? Do you, like I do, go online or research through magazines looking for someone who can depict your character to perfection? And if you don’t, then how do you come up with a description? Does it come out of your head? Do you base it on someone you’ve seen on a corner? In the Mall? How does this person jump to life for you so  you can make the character jump to life for me?

You knew this was coming… Let’s discuss…

Coming soon:: 3 Wishes, A Candy Hearts Story 2/8/16 from The Wild Rose Press. Buy Links available soon


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Filed under 3 Wishes, Author, Characters, Contemporary Romance, Literary characters, MacQuire Women, Romance, Romance Books, WIld Rose Press AUthor

13 responses to “A picture is worth….?

  1. I like the idea of having their pictures on your desk for reference. Great post!


  2. Mary Gillgannon

    I’m with you, Peggy. Some writers like to give very vague descriptions, so the reader can fill it in with their imagination. I like to be pretty detailed because as a reader myself, I like to be able to clearly envision who I’m reading about. Good post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Most of the time I visualize actors for my characters, but for some, there are pictures I find that look like the people I want to depict. I need to work with a picture or image to flesh out the person.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Peggy thanks for sharing this. I love getting insight into other author’s methods.


  5. Sandra Dailey

    I keep a note book by my desk. The first pages are my character sheets with pictures attached.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Peggy. Great post! I use scrivener, that give me the ability to save pictures to my characters worksheets. (keep hard copies also, just in case I get in a fight with my computer.) That way I can always look back at a character which helps when he or she makes appearances over several books. LIke a series. I too love to people watch, which is where some of my characters mannerisms come from.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Since my stories tend to be character-driven, I do have a picture that I use to work with. Usually I don’t need one for the woman. I definitely need one for the man. For Fairest of the Faire, I had a picture of a character from my local RenFaire. I took the picture, as those people are always up for posing. I later got a picture of his back, so I could see the rest of his costume. That picture sat on my desk the whole time I wrote. I built the story around him. I will occasionally see a picture somewhere – in the newspaper or in some online ad – that strikes me, and I will save it or cut it out and put it on my bulletin board. That picture will become a character someday.


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