Last month, I ended up talking about how I go about visualising my characters. There is some more I can say on the topic, I feel.
As already stated, I use pictures from the internet to help me come up with decent enough matches to what I have in mind. I use actors and actresses, because you then tend to have a much better range; they tend to be in a number of productions over a number of years, thus allowing you to be able to look at them younger – or older – than they would be in the story you are writing.
That said, I don’t always do that. Sometimes, through a random search, you find someone, who has an outfit that intrigues, and you try to see if there is more images of that person. Sometimes, you can find a few more. Sometimes none. Then you might have a person who has placed a couple hundred images of themselves, over a number of social media sites.
This might seem like stalking, but the key thing to understand is that I am interested in useful likenesses, and fashion concepts. Simply put, you cannot invent everything, and someone else’s bright fashion idea can readily inspire you, and you then go and adapt it for your story.
In times past, you would be looking in newspapers, keeping clippings, taking pictures and storing them in protective sleeves… nowadays, you can find useful information and images on a computer, and store them on a computer as well. This helps a lot, because now, we have software to keep track of plot details and so forth, so organisation of character sketches is a much more simpler, efficient affair… if you know how to do it.
Another thing to consider is the age of the person in the image you are referring to. It might be too young, too old… but with a little understanding of photo manipulation and editing,you can develop a simple mock-up that, whilst not elegant, gets you the description you need. You can even tweak things, turning day into night as well. Once you understand that you can make things translucent, you can create colour “filters,” that alter how something looks to a degree. It can also help to balance out lighting between photo element, too.
No photo edit, in my opinion, is ever perfect, so you should not worry if you use such programs, and you have a mistake in the image. You are not trying to create a magazine cover, you are trying to create inspiration for your story.
Another thing I like to do is try to work out the basics of a character: How old are they? Have they finished school, and if so, what level/grade were they at departure? Did they go to university? Do they have a job? Do they have parents, and if so, what are they like? Do they have siblings? Who are their friends?
It isn’t important if these details don’t end up in the story. What is important is that you understand the character, and have confidence in your knowledge and understanding of them.
Hopefully this hasn’t been a pointless ramble. I get paranoid like that; I produce something that will be either unhelpful, uninteresting, or both. With luck, it is neither.
I also suspect I will end up going back to this topic again at some point, and add some more to the topic, when i end up thinking of more to say. So folks, you’ve been warned! (I say in jest.)