Writers are a creepy bunch for sure. It’s true. We hear voices, we’re constantly looking at people (yes, you) and wondering if somehow one person or another would make an interesting character in a book (the odder you are, the more likelihood of this happening).
Writers have tricks too. Odd tricks. Things they do to encourage the “muse” to come to them and fill their brain cells with vast amounts of creative ideas and inspiration. For me, I use pictures. Yep, pictures. I surf the net or cut up old magazines to find the “perfect” face that represents the various characters in my novel.
And then I hang them up.
Creepy, I know.
On the wall behind my desk, I post these pictures. I look at them whenever I come to a part in my writing in which I need to describe the physical attributes of a certain character.
I first learned this trick in a writing class I took two years ago. We were handed a paper with a dozen or more questions to fill out—what color hair does your character have; how much schooling do they have; quirks and talents; what are their dreams; their aspirations; their hang-ups; who is their best friend; what is their pet-peeves; etc . . . Then we were told to find a picture that best represents our character. (All of this helps to better build characterization).
I had never done it before. I just wrote. I mean, in my mind I had an idea about what each of my characters looked like, but to make it concrete? I was a bit hesitant. It seemed weird.
But I did it. I did the assignment, and for me, it made a huge difference. To physically see what my imaginary characters would look like (if they were real), helped me become a better writer. I feel as though I describe my characters more fully. I can get the description of my characters down onto paper far easier. (Try it. You’ll like it).
Besides, it’s kinda fun.
I’ve used pictures of Tyne Daly, Laura Linney, Sam Elliot, Dakota Fanning, Zac Efron; Vanessa Hudgens; Jake Gyllenhaal; Paul Walker, to name just a few.
Right now, I have several pictures taped to the wall behind my desk of my four main characters in Wanted: Dead or Undead. I also have pictures of old west guns and an old Wanted: Dead or Alive poster (just for fun, to put me in a western-writing kind of mood).
So, when you see my pictures, don’t think, “Wow, I think she’s a celebrity stalker.” Because I’m not. The pictures I see on my wall aren’t Dakota Fanning or Zac Efron—to me, their “Sam” and “Jacob” in Desert Rice. And the oriental boy on Glee (Harry Shum Jr.) isn’t Mike Chang. He’s “Wen” in Wanted: Dead or Undead.
That’s right. It’s still slightly creepy (writers are odd ducks and that’s okay), but it works.
What works for you?