Friday, January 21, 2022

Can You See Them?

I have a confession to make.  When I write a story, or even when I read one, I can't see the characters.  

I don't think my brain works that way.  Maybe it did before it got crumpled, but it doesn't now.

Oh, I hear them fine.  And I do have a general impression of what they look like.  But I couldn't give their descriptions to a sketch artist and have them draw these people so they'd look like what I think they look like.  I couldn't pick them out of a line-up.  Because I don't think they look like anything more than an amorphous blob.

Looking for models for my book covers was the hardest thing.  My cover artist gave me a link to the site she uses and had me go at it.  I scanned hundreds of photos to find the best approximation of what Jo Mayweather and Jeni Braxxon look like.  I must've scanned hundreds more to find images for Accidental Death and Natural Causes, and those aren't even full face.  All I had to do was find a general shape.  

Once I'm made to go look for a character's face, then they have a face forever after.  Jo will always look like the cover model to me now.  So will Jeni.  Before that?  Not a clue.  Once I went looking for an image of Zeke - because I think someone asked me for it - and Zeke now looks like that dude.  (I'd show you, but the link to that model is broken now.  Oops.)

I have author friends who are all like 'this is what my character looks like' and they'll show a picture they found.  I'm a little jealous of those folks.  I want to see my creations in my head, but I can't.  

Thinking about it now, I can't really hold the images of someone's face in my head either.  Real life people are amorphous blobs, too.  :shrug:

As a result, I'm probably not the best at describing my characters in writing.  At least, I don't feel like I'm the best.  My readers are probably a better judge of that than I am.  The image the reader has in their heads probably isn't anywhere close to what I would have, if, you know, I had an image.  I guess that's okay.  I want the reader to picture the characters as they see them.  I guess what I do write as description is sufficient for that purpose.  

Like in Untitled Fantasy... Captain Vere, the head of the Academy, is tall and wiry with silver hair (not silver as in old, just silver) and a scar running down her cheek.  She's a battle-hardened lady and obviously tough enough to run an academy full of kids learning magic and skills for battle, but there's a sadness to her as she never really had a childhood of her own and her twin was killed in battle.  Can ya picture her?  

But let's take Aryl, the main character.  He's average height/weight for a 15-year-old boy.  He's a farm boy, so he's got some physical strength, but he's also way smaller than his friend, Galin.  Black hair, violet eyes.  And that's all I've got for him.  Can't picture anything else, so there he is.  And I need to go find a model for him so I can do the freakin' cover.  Derp.

His sister, Lyra...  White hair, violet eyes.  Pretty.  Or at least pretty to Galin.  I guess she would have a similar facial structure to Aryl... they are twins, after all, even if it's fraternal and not identical.  Since I can't see him, I can't really give you her either.  She's a wisp of a dream of a drawing of a person.

Galin... Aryl's best friend and sweet on Lyra.  Big dude for his age.  A 'pull the plow when the horses get tired' kind of guy.  

Anyway, I don't want to talk about every character here.  I have the basics, but I can't SEE them.  Wish I could.  Can't.  

What about you?  Can you see the characters you write or read?  Are they fully-formed or just blobs?  Does having a picture help?  Or when you see a pic of the characters do they totally harsh the image you formed on your own?


  1. Wow. Deep territory here. Let's start with me, the writer. I have a notion of what a character looks like. I'm very visual. I get down to specifics, at least in my own head, before I go looking for a model. And yes, being visual, I ususally have photos of my characters for reference--for my own written descriptions and also for my readers. Here's where it gets sketchy. Sometimes, I get really specific on descrptions when describing a character in words. Other times, I realize (with 20/20 hindsight) that I'm sometimes vague and I can't necessarily explain why the difference. Weird. Anyway...

    As a reader, some authors are very detailed. Nora Roberts in her JD Robb persona details exactly how the main, secondary, and very often the casual character look--facial and physical characteristics as well as dress and appearance. Nalini Singh also is detailed in her descriptions. Ilona Andrews, is less so but the reader can still "see" the characters. I don't have any trouble picturing your characters but I'm pretty sure what's in my imagination isn't all that close to yours and you know what? That's okay! Each reader has their own perception. Lordy, the online heated discussions in a couple of forums over who should play Dallas and Roarke should Robb's In Death books ever make it to screen. NO ONE agreed on who should star.

    I'll admit something here. I play that game--not necessarily to come up with the "original" model, but if one of my books got made into a movie or TV show, which actor/actress should play them. Kinda glad I'm small potatoes because I'm pretty sure whoever I picked out would NOT be who the producers would pick. 🤣🤣🤣

    As said above, throught-provoking subject today. Have a great weekend. 🤞🏼 for a warm up in temps. Later, tater.

  2. I know what my main characters look like, but everybody else is a blob. But I've never been good with faces.

    As a reader, I'm grateful to the models on the cover, as long as they match the written descriptions. Saves me a lot of work trying to visualize those blobs!