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How do you visualize your characters?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Leif GS Notae, Apr 19, 2012.

  1. Leif GS Notae

    Leif GS Notae Closed Account

    Since it's the modern age, and everyone has their tabs and computers connected and streaming, I'm curious to know the ways you go about visually "sketching" your character?

    I know when I was a video game player, I would often use the character creation screens from games like The Elder Scrolls to get an idea as to how my current "obsession" would look like. I've heard some people using their WoW characters (and those they ran into) as good ways to get a clear look at a character before writing them.

    With great mods out there for games like Oblivion (my poor compy can't handle the next game) and Skyrim; you can get a pretty good 3D character made and in a fantasy setting to see if they fit there.

    Some use the Hero Generator (though I can't really use it too much); it is a simple way to get a visual, but there's something to be said about seeing your character in 3D.

    I know some of the concept sketches from video games and movies that the companies release after they are finished with the project can spark something. Same with places like Deviant Art.

    So, what do you use?
  2. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    I'm old-school. I use pencil and paper if I really want a picture. Sometimes I clip things from magazines like a sword I think looks cool or a dress I like and I have a folder of compiled clippings I draw inspiration from when I draw.
  3. The Din

    The Din Troubadour

    I honestly have never even tried to visualize any of my main characters, let alone draw them. I like to leave character descriptions open, as each reader has their own interpretation, (exceptions being scars, missing body parts, and the occasional pair of breasts). Thus my own characters appearances remain somewhat of a mystery even to me, which I enjoy and have no designs on changing.

    If I ever were to draw one, I'd probably use photoshop, possibly off a prerendered computer game character. I have been considering doing this for the cover, though would probably stick to silhouettes due to the above reasons.
  4. shangrila

    shangrila Inkling

    Generally, I use Deviant. There's tons of amazing artwork there and its not all that hard to find something specific you might be looking for.

    I've never used the video game/3D way though. I'll have to give it a try.
  5. Shockley

    Shockley Maester

    I have a folder of 'inspirational' images on my desktop that I base characters off, so it can be a little bizarre to describe it. Just for instance, Osric (my protag) looks like the statue of Rollo the Viking in Bayeux. Another character looks like how Woodhouse painted Circe. Etc.
  6. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    I've tried drawing my characters, but they never turn out quite like I imagine them in my head. :/ One of these days I might ask someone to draw one of my characters as a commission... it's deciding which one(s) I want art of most that's the trouble. ^^;
  7. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    I love to draw my characters and upload them onto DeviantArt, although I always end up revising their design multiple times due to my fickle muse.
  8. Ghost

    Ghost Inkling

    It's rare, but sometimes when I search Google images for something unrelated to writing a photo will pop up that makes me think, "Wow, you look exactly like one of my characters!" Like Shockley, I have a folder of saved images, but they're often a jumping off point rather than specific characters. Only my gods get special treatment.

    For the most part, I have a hard time visualizing characters. I can see their clothing, their body types, and their hands. I can hear their voices really well. I get a sense of their personalities. That's it. I have a character whose personality I'm getting to know very well, and I still can't see him from the neck up.

    I wonder if it says something about me that most of my characters are faceless. Two-thirds of people in my dreams have blurry faces or no faces at all.

    I can't even draw stick figures well, so there's no way I could draw credible portraits of my characters.
  9. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I don't always have a clear image of my characters. To me they're like mental states that you put on like a costume, so they don't always see themselves. But as I write a character, sometimes they'll take the face of an actor or actors and their mannerisms, inside my head. Generally, I don't put too much into physical description other than to convey the broad strokes, because no matter how in detail a character is described, the reader will map their own vision over it.
  10. Jon_Chong

    Jon_Chong Scribe

    I actually don't know how my characters would look like. Rather, I know how they feel like. Like this character has a motherly feel. Or this one is the stoic badass soldier type. I'll drop in a couple of descriptors to keep them from 'looking' the same - a scar, maybe a different weapon, height, hair, eyes - but most of the time I rely on generating a feel for the character and letting the reader decide for themselves how the feel translates to as a picture.
  11. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

    I think it's impossible not to cast my stories. It's never been a case of trying to dictate to my readers imaginations though. I'm very visually minded, so to be able to portray and describe any character sensibly I like to have some form of representation for them.

    The entire main cast of my science fiction novel Blitz have been attached to different actors. For example, now I know that the starship captain and mercenary is similar to Cle Bennett, I know he has a comforting, deep, raspy voice.. I can use my own view of the actor to figure out how the protagonist Myra might view him. You might call it a jumping off point (but if the story ever needs to be cast for real I'm ahead of the game on knowing what I want right ;) haha).

    Oddly enough I haven't cast my urban fantasy, Faebound, which is odd for me. The only person I've set is a character known as the Librarian. Now I can't remember the actors name but honestly it doesn't matter, because I know my charcter is a small, wrinkled old man with an alternating streak of "mafia boss" and "kindly old boy". He almost looks uncomfortable in his skin...

    You see, knowing these helps me short cut my way to being able to describe them. It also stops me from contradicting myself. I'd say this stems from my years of finding "PBs" for pbp free form roleplaying games.
  12. Cirias

    Cirias Acolyte

    I tend to get a good picture of them in my head first, so I know what they look like to me. Then when I'm planning the story out, I'll grab a picture off DeviantArt or somewhere similar of a similar looking character to mine. This helps me keep them in my head when I start to create secondary characters.
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    I just have a few notes with salient details of the character's appearance. I don't need more than that to go on, and even if I had more information I wouldn't put it into the story because I think character descriptions are best when they are rather limited.
  14. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    I have various ways to visualize my characters. Occasionally I use the character generator in City of Heroes, other times I sketch them out, but most of the time, I just visualize them as if they came out of an anime or manga. (I am an otaku and proud of it!)
  15. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    Totally. Even when I feel all creative and start sketching, I won't go into too much detail unless the detail is important. I want a reader to envision the character as they see him, not as I do. Sometimes, in fact, I have caught myself describing something and not even remembering what color hair my character has or whether it is curly or straight. It's nice to keep things straight in your own mind, but mentioning a particular feature more than a few times is just tedious to read, so I'm a minimalist too when it comes to physical descriptions.
  16. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

    I couldn't draw my characters to save my life, and the sorts of appearances I favour for my MCs tend not to be options in the average RPG. At least one chubby character, at least one who is missing a hand (it's a strange recurring theme with me; I blame Tyr), and usually a fair few POC, which a lot of RPGs don't accommodate for. If I'm bored over a weekend, I might do a 'casting' for my characters, finding celebrities or models they look a lot like, but I don't really use it as a reference. I just do it for a bit of fun.

    I guess I visualize my characters with bullet points.
  17. Leif GS Notae

    Leif GS Notae Closed Account

    While I can understand that point of view, there is something more confirming by seeing your character in "living and breathing" visualization. I know I've looked at what I thought was my MC and thought 'they don't fit that role, but they look like a supporting character no problem.'

    I always try to keep the visualization of the modern culture in mind when I write my stories, if there is something that applies and draws interest, I will use it. But when it boils down to it, books are much like TV and movies when you cast. It is culture defined, not culture opposite.

    It's the curse of living in this modern age.
  18. Argentum

    Argentum Troubadour

    I do the same thing as Cirias. I picture the characters in my head first. I usually don't go looking for a picture to attach my character to, because if I did, it would make me feel like I depended on someone's picture in order to actualy create my character. I wouldn't be able to feel like that character was entirely mine and would feel a whole lot like cheating to me, personally. But I do like surfing through Deviantart, picking out all the pictures that remind me of my characters to save in a nice little album.
  19. The Dark One

    The Dark One Inkling

    This is amazing. It's never occurred to me (as I write) what my characters look like. Certainly not the main character...I tend to mostly write in 1st person so the main character probably looks like me (in my mind). I give few details re appearance of the main characters, but enough (as relevant) about non-narrator characters.

    The first time I had a book published, I felt weird about the fact that the main character was portrayed on the cover. I remember being relieved that the face was obscured...and now I understand why.
  20. Like several people here, the images I have of my characters are often hazy. I know what they look like, but not to the point of seeing their faces exactly and intricately, with a few exceptions. I've tried drawing them, always comes out a load of cobblers, so I don't really bother. I just have images in my head I guess. I also have a terrible fear that if I were to provide my reader with illustrations I would be replacing their image of a character with an inferior one.

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