How do you decide how your characters should look?
This question from a fellow blogger intrigued us. How do we decide?
We follow other authors on Pinterest, and oftentimes they pin pictures of models or celebrities to represent characters in their books. But we’ve never gotten that specific. That’s curious because our books are all about the characters—so much so that we use the main character’s name when we talk about stories-in-progress. We set up computer files based on the character’s name too. For example, the heroine in our young adult novel, Walled In, is named Vandy. Every file relating to Walled In is labeled “Vandy.” And yet we have no tangible images of Vandy anywhere.
All we have is a general description of Vandy’s height, hair and eye color, and a quirk or two. We created these simple guidelines to avoid describing Vandy’s blue eyes on one page and then talking about her green eyes several chapters later. Without a list, mistakes like that are easy to make, especially with two writers working on the same book. But actual pictures? Nope. Not a one.
So maybe the answer is we don’t decide how our characters should look. It’s not that we don’t care. But as writers, we approach our character’s appearance the same way we do as readers—by filling in our own expectations and experiences. The beauty of our characters is in the eye of the bookholder, whoever that may be.
We might have to revisit our inclination to avoid pictures when we get our first movie contract. After all, we want to be sure to cast the right celebrity in the role! Until then, we’ll carry on as we are. We figure Thoreau had it right when he said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” And we see our characters just fine, without having to know the size of the mole on her left toe.
How specific do you get with your character’s appearance? Tell us in the comments.
Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter writes sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit HLCarpenter.com to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.
Connect with HL Carpenter