How to describe a fiction character by finding her face

Woman's face, selected for Kyan.

The face to the left is a reasonably pretty face, older, say in her late 30s or early 40s.   However, there is nothing tremendously remarkable about this face.  So why do I have this picture featured in my post?  Easy–it’s an exercise I do to not only find or develop a character, but to then have a simple, visual way to identify one of my characters rather than reading a bunch of description.

It’s okay, if you only have a few characters, but if you have a lot of characters, as I do in my WIP, Battle Cleric, the Novel, then I need a quicker way to identify the character and pull up some characteristics i might need for my next scene.

Here’s how it works.

Decide which comes first—the chicken or the egg.  In this case, do you have a character you want to explore more fully?  Or are you looking for a character to fill a certain spot in your story?  In this case, I have a character, and I know a fair amount about her.  She is an Eslin elf, ex-soldier formerly under the command of Emerald Verity, erstwhile battle cleric, retired, and now High Priestess of the Maker in the Eslin elf city of Shemara.  She is now Emerald’s personal assistant and her name is Kyan.  Since she is a minor character, albeit an important one, I have not fleshed her out more than that.  I want to do it quickly and get on with the story.

So I went looking for a character in all the magnificent galleries that allow free use of their photos.  I had a vague idea in mind about what she looked like, nothing really concrete, and I also knew approximately how old she is.  I searched through gallery after gallery of pictures of women’s faces.  Nothing.  I didn’t think I was being too particular, but no photo reached out to me and said, “This is your character, Kyan.”  Then suddenly it happened.  There was the perfect Kyan.

I studied the picture and began writing down what I saw in the picture—age 37, light brown hair and eyes, pretty face that is unmarred by the horrors of battle, a strong personality, very loyal, innovative and creative, a lover of the outdoors and animals both wild and tame.  This last part made a perfect set-up for Kyan to be the keeper of the puppy that finds its way on board as Emerald and her crew search the oceans of Athero for the elusive green Sea Rose.  I won’t tell you more about the puppy now, because that will spoil it, but it is a very special puppy and needs a very special keeper.

Who is this character and what does he look like?

The serendipity of uncensored writing comes into effect when you are looking for one thing and find another plot point or character or both pop up because of the stimulus of the face of your character.

I found out quite a bit more about Kyan, copied it all down, then linked the picture with Kyan’s name to the description, and placed the picture on the page of character pictures I have.  I can now look at that page and at a glance tell a lot about the character.  If I NEED more detail, I can go to the full description via the link.  It works beautifully for me.

If I had been looking for a character to be Emerald’s personal assistant, I would have done the same thing, only perhaps I wouldn’t have had to do a little prep work first—sex, age, physical condition at the very least.  If I found a great photo that didn’t match, that’s okay, I could change it.  The visual backup here is very comforting for a writer who deals nearly exclusively with words and text.  It rounds out the picture of the character and makes it easier, at least for me, to write good action scenes and dialogue involving the character.

Try it yourself.  I would love to hear back from you how it works for you.


One response to “How to describe a fiction character by finding her face

  1. Pingback: Success in Developing Your Characters | Wizards and Ogres and Elves…oh my!

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