Tag Archives: fantasy fiction

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.


Welcome to Fantasyfic – Journey Through the Worlds of Fantasy Fiction

"Birth of a Unicorn and Other Stories"

Anthology edited by Sandra Bell Kirchman and published by FantasyFic - recently released.

To paraphrase a well-known bathroom wall graffiti:  Here I sit, broken-hearted; came to write and never started.  I’ve discovered that writing is one of the loneliest occupations in the world.  Even if I am collaborating with someone else, in the end it boils down to me sitting down and…well…writing.  Just me and my computer screen.  On occasion, I’ve even felt like Dr. Johnny Fever, who, when sitting in on the all-night show for Venus Flytrap in “WKRP in Cincinnati,” called out over the mike at 4am, “For the love of God, is there anybody out there?”.  Fortunately, there are ways to counteract that loneliness.

Hi, I’m Sandra Bell Kirchman.  If you’re trying to write fantasy fiction and hitting road blocks, I invite you to follow along with me as I hit the open road of writing a fantasy novel.  It’s an epic adventure with the working title of Battle Cleric, full of various kinds of elves and a journey both into the past and the future of retired Battle Cleric Emerald Verity.  I’ll be sharing some information on plot structure, character development, world building, name-calling (but we’ll be polite about it 🙂 ), where, when, and if you need to find cover artists, and basically the joy and freedom of writing fantasy.  Perhaps we’ll explore book signings as well, something I’ve done a fair amount of.  And anything else that touches our fancy along the way.   I hope you’ll be sharing some of your techniques and ideas along the way as well.

In addition, we be touching on pictures and quotes to inspire us or represent a part of our writing.  We’ll also be discussing a few of our favorite fantasy authors and why they are our favorites, pinpointing technique and style as we go.  Fantasy movies will also be a part of it. 

I do hope you’ll join me, as we take our “Journey Through the Worlds of Fantasy Fiction.”

Fantasyfic logo

Fantasyfic Logo

I’ve written a fantasy novel, Witchcanery, which has won quite a bit of acclaim around the world and a few awards along the way.  It has also earned me a much-coveted spot in “50 Great Writers You Should be Reading” (I’m the one hidden behind the “d” in “Reading.”)  This is a book of hope for writers and insight for readers into the struggles and successes of 50 writers chosen by The Authors Show.  The book was published and recently released by The Authors Show for purchase.

I have also edited, contributed a story, and done the layout for two anthologies—one entitled In the Shadow of the Burr Oak, written by my students of a short story class; the other entitled Birth of a Unicorn and Other Stories, written by the writers at my website’s forum and just recently released.  I have worked a lot with these writers, and together we have written a wonderful book.

And now, together, you and I can explore the world of fantasy together, while I regale you with all my adventures and you share with me your own writing tribulations and successes. 

“Journey Through the Worlds of Fantasy Fiction” will commence January 4, 2011, perhaps heralding a brand new year and a brand new writing horizon.