They Seek Them Here, They Seek Them There, Those Writers Seek Them Everywhere.

Posted: March 10, 2012 in Scribe Scribbles
Tags: , ,

Squire at the joust 2011 Ren Faire

I’m working right now (well kinda right now) on fleshing out the description of one of my characters. Remember I said I was tightening the camera? Part of that is splurging,  while Mirriam Neal is still having her ridiculous art sale, and having her draw another of my characters for me.

Having a picture of the character helps me get a handle on how they look, how they talk,  and how they move. The best I can do on my own is a composite of notes and badly sketched eyeballs (which is about the extent of my artistic talent. It really has withered due to neglect) and it’s just not enough.   Mirriam is fantastic at reaching into the creative  wibbly-wobbly aether (which can be detected with a thing that goes *ding* when there’s stuff)  and pulling out the likeness of characters.

Really, you should take her up on her offer. $10 for a sketch sheet? $30 for a portrait?  You aren’t going to get better prices than that.  I believe today is the last day for it.

Right now, I’m going through pictures online and trying to find the ones I think look the most like my character  so she has some visuals to work with. Usually I go through magazines (JC Penny ©, Macy’s ©, Cold Water Creek ©) and cut out the models that seem to fit the characters I have,  but I’ve used celebrities as well for character image stand-ins.

I’ve also gotten very adept at snapping pictures of innocent by standers. See that fellow up there? The poor guy’s trying to have a moment’s peace  and get his over long curly hair tucked into his cap before the horses and knights come out into the arena again. But did I give him that chance? Nope. *Snap* And now he’s Luicus, a character that’s been on the side lines whispering intriguing bits about himself to me for some time.  Whenever I go to the Ren Faire out here, I take my camera. I think I snap two to three hundred pictures each time I’m there, taking pictures of cosplayers, costumers, and fans that have dressed up. Most, I’ve found, are delighted to pose if you ask them.  I’ve taken pictures at historical places too like Williamsburg and Mt. Vernon, and they’ve worked into my folder of “character references”. So that’s what I’m up to tonight, Scribes, tightening the camera and commissioning some art. How do you put faces to your paper tigers? Do you base them off of friends and family members?  Actors? Or, like me, are you out and about with your cameras (or phones) snap-snap-snapping away at reenactment professionals? Tell me in the comments below.

  1. Megan-Marie says:

    Mostly I just ask them to hold still and stop talking for three minutes so I can write a description?

    Okay, that is not true. I may be the only person alive who reads and writes “blind.” I don’t see a mental picture in my head of what the author is describing; I don’t care if I’m reading Tolkien or Hemingway, when I read, the inside of my mind doesn’t look any different. If I want to see what I’m looking at, I watch a movie.

    There’s a line in “A Wrinkle In Time” where Aunt Beast tells Meg, who was trying to explain to her what “seeing” is, “We don’t see what things ‘look’ like. We know what things ‘are’ like.” Which is pretty much my process. I was never one of those kids who could see her imaginary friends–probably why I’m not institutionalized or murdered horribly by a demon–they were invisible, of course, just like my characters, because they exist in the ether and nowhere else. I don’t know what they look like; I know what they are like.

    So when I read “sandy shaggy hair and sad blue eyes,” for example, I don’t get a mental picture of Mark Hamill sitting with his chin in his hands. I don’t see anything at all. I’ve often wondered if nobody sees anything and just all pretend that they do, or if I’m actually pretty much alone in this. Which doesn’t mean, in any respect, that I devalue description.

    When I read, I feel like a blind participant because that’s how the book treats me: it describes locations and people in detail you wouldn’t need if you could see. So I imagine whatever I construct is similar to what a blind person comes up with when someone has told them about a place and the people in it.

    As far as writing is concerned, I just start. Usually I don’t know what the character looks like until he tells me. Which is why, for example, none of the crew in Alien Roadkill has been described as of yet; I don’t know what they look like. I have maybe three characters who were originally supposed to be based on real people, but now they have very little in common with them. Just as I’m writing along, eventually words start popping onto the screen that tell both me and the reader the same details about visual appearance. And sometimes I’ll see an actor and go, “Yeah, he’d do, wouldn’t he, for X?” But it’s always after the fact, and while I’ll occasionally use a picture if I need it, I never see that actor as the character.

    I just don’t visualize. The closest thing I could say is when I read or write, “I see men … like trees, walking around” in my mind’s eye.

  2. Kathy Black says:

    Lots of great ideas for characters here. Love the creative ideas. And Miriam Neal’s work is awesome. Go for it.

Be brilliant, be peculiar, be peculiarly brilliant.

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