To help me get a better grip on my characters, I find pictures of them. I search Google for images of red heads, men with scars, elderly bald men. I scan through the pictures until I find one that resembles the idea I have in my head. I rarely choose a face I recognize. Actors image are mixed in with the others and they come with too much backstory of their own that I already know. I want an anonymous face.
Let me make this important note: other than for my own personal use—these pictures will never go anywhere except my files. I won’t use them for cover art or promotional material, because I have not purchased the rights to reuse them in this fashion. This is purely for me to see my characters as I’m writing.
Much like the style sheets I mentioned last month, I have these images on a separate document at the bottom of my screen. At the beginning of a book, I start each day looking at the pictures. It serves as a reminder of whose story I’m telling. This routine helps me remember what makes them unique and what I want to make sure my readers remember about them. Even in plot driven works—characters matter.
Under each image, I will include the character’s name, and often times with what it means. I may also add special notes that will help me write the character more clearly. Gwen: means blessed, has a southern drawl. Or Jeff: means God’s peace, scars down right arm.
Having these pictures close at hand helps my plot driven brain anchor my readers with consistent clear characters. And it’s a lot of fun finding characters that are floating in my head as real images.