Visualizing Characters

You know how you go to watch the movie-version of a book and you’re like, “This character doesn’t look anything like what I thought they would?”

That rarely ever happens to me. I don’t know why, but when reading, I don’t tend to form specific pictures in my head of the characters. Instead, I have a vague impression and that’s usually enough for me.

(Oddly enough, I do occasionally have moments of “Wow, that character looks exactly like I thought they would,” never mind that I still don’t have a specific picture in my head. Go figure.)

This is also true when I write. For some things, like shorts, I don’t even bother to form an appearance in my head. This may be because my shorts are almost exclusively plot driven, and it doesn’t matter much what the character looks like as long as they’re there and the story is going where it needs to go. For my novels, characters tend to again gain only a vague impression–in most cases, height, eye and hair color, hair length. Some characters have more characteristics, such as scars or glasses, but it’s not the norm for me.

I don’t know; I guess the essence of the character is more important than their appearance, and so I focus on that.

In the last few years, though, I’ve picked up making icons and covers and banners for my stories, both to procrastinate and to motivate. I’ve jumped onto Pinterest over the last few weeks (I know, I am horribly late to the party) and have been making boards for various stories. (You can see the one for Shards here, and I’m also working on one for my long-running serial here.)

And, while it’s never easy to find an image that evokes exactly what you want, I’ve found that it’s near impossible to find appropriate pictures for characters. Despite only having a vague notion in my head, I can be oddly specific with images. The Shards characters have proven particularly difficult over time as well. And your Pinterest searches have to get a bit creative. Sometimes you can be too specific, and find nothing that works. Sometimes everybody you find is too model-y, if you know what I mean.

(Searching for “pretty boys” is surprisingly worthless.)

What about you, Squiders? Do you form specific images in your mind for characters, whether you’re reading or writing? Does it bother you when an actor doesn’t fit your image?

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