One of my favorite parts of reading a novel is finding out what the characters look like. It can also be one of the most frustrating. I’ve read books where the only thing I know is that the hero has blond hair. In other books, the heroine’s hair doesn’t look anything like the model on the cover. How frustrating!
I’d like to say that I’m better than that, but I’m not. In my first manuscript it was easy – they were my first characters. Since then, however, I tend to confuse people. I think my current heroine bought colored contacts, because her eyes keep changing from blue to brown.
For the novel that I’m writing this year, I’m giving myself a visual. I searched the internet and found pictures of my two main characters. I printed up each head shot on 8.5×11 inch paper so I can refer to them often.
It wasn’t easy. There are gabs of pictures on the internet. Searching for a 35 year-old brunette gets some interesting results. Here are a few techniques (and warnings):
1. Google image search: You have to be careful here. It doesn’t seem to matter what I type in – somewhere in the results there’s usually a naked boob. Consider yourself warned.
2. Modeling agencies: These are fun. You can scroll through hundreds of models’ profiles. It’s can be hard to find an average looking person, though. And let’s be honest – some of those pictures are just creepy.
3. Catalogs: My personal favorite. The nice thing about a catalog is that your model is usually in there multiple times. That makes it easy to find different expressions and poses. It also makes it easy to waste hours looking at new shoes (put the credit card away and get back here).
That’s a good start, but there’s more work to do. Every character lives in a house, drives a car, has a family – and in all of those situations there’s the potential to forget details. That’s where the pictures come in. Don’t be afraid to make yourself a photo album (or two) of all of the things you need to remember for your novel.