Tag Archives: Carrickfergus

Writing Characters: Who Do You See?

I know numerous writers who assemble storyboards or character files prior to writing a single word.  These boards or files include photographs, snagged from the internet or various publications, with the facial and physical characteristics they will ascribe to their characters.

I can’t work that way.  My characters reveal themselves a little here, a little there, until the picture is complete.  That said, by the time I’ve come to know them well, I realize the character isn’t a random accumulation of parts but is, rather, someone who has impressed me enough that, although I probably can’t name the person or recall the why or wherefore of the encounter or observation, I made a mental file.  The character’s physical attributes spill from that subconcious file and reassembled on the page.

This makes finding photographic representations somewhat difficult.

My critique partner illuminated this problem as we discussed cover art.  She knows me well and understands my aversion to covers—and titles—that don’t honestly convey the books they represent.  Thus, the hunt commenced.

I started with my first heroine (who you will not meet until Book Two of my Merlin’s Prophesy series), since she first entered my pages in the mid 9os, and I knew everything I could know about her.  Hours and hours later, it occurred to me who she resembled.  The problem?  I didn’t know the gal’s name.  I could only recall seeing her in a Riverdance production.  More hours, but I found her:  first, in the cast of Riverdance, then, reprising her Riverdance role as Erin the Goddess in Feet of Flames

While my heroine’s hair is darker red, longer, and less curly, and she describes herself as “too tall, too thin, and too plain”, a far cry from anyone portraying a goddess, here is the woman who jumped from those mental files I mentioned earlier.  Meet Anne Buckley aka my first heroine.   

And just because I love this song and there is none to stop me from indulging: 

My second heroine (who you will meet in the first book of my series), entrances the hero on page one.  Seeing her in silhouette against a setting sun, he thinks her an angel, albeit a stacked angel, and is unsettled by his uncharacteristic viceral response.  I searched high and low for a good photo and found a few that came close, but none were quite right.  Then another friend said, “Have you looked at your oldest daughter?”

Well, duh!  I’d written the character, but didn’t realize the physical representation came from my own brood.  (Thus, it’s fair to conclude, not only am I not a linear thinker, I can be as dense as diamonds.)

Genetics blessed my oldest daughter with her father’s golden-blond hair and dense, Highland Scot bones, while youngest, also blonde, received my mother’s Irish “bird-bones”.  My heroine is golden-blonde, has Highland antecedents, and thinks of herself a “over-tall for a woman”, so the resemblance is a no-brainer—or should have been.  (I’ll not insert photos since there are a couple on my photos page, but if you look, you’ll see exactly what I mean.)

Two down.  One to go—at least for this series . . . I hope.

Heroes are an entirely different battle and will wait for another day.

Do you start with photos?  Drawings?  A friend or acquaintance?  Or are you like me, scrambling after the fact?

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