Visualizing Your Characters

By: Aryanne Ferguson

I often struggle to develop a clear physical picture of my characters. Am I in the minority, or can you paint your characters as clear as a picture before you start writing? To be honest, for most of my early stories I never have a clear physical picture of my characters… Oops. To be fair, I can’t even imagine standing next to a face as familiar as Orlando Bloom’s. (I mean, what kind of posture does he have and just how tall is he again?) Have you ever seen pictures of a relative who lives far away, and when you actually, met they weren’t what you expected? Taller, thinner, shorter, wider, lines on their face, freckles, a bump on the nose that signifies it’s been broken? Heck, this happens to me when I’m walking down the street. A stranger’s appearance changes the closer I get as details clarify – eye color, strands of gray in blonde hair, skin imperfections – you get the picture.

I don’t know why i thought of Orlando Bloom, but since I did.. (Source:

So I fished around for answers. How do writers first visualize their characters? My cousin clips photos of faces from magazines and pastes them into fantastic character collages (her characters are very pretty). My friend people-watches and draws quick sketches of faces. Someone else casts for actors for novels that play out like films in his head. And yet another person scrolls through her friends’ photos on Facebook until she spots a stranger who fits a particular character. My classmate finds inspiration in old family photos; no one living knows their true stories, so he feels compelled to write some guesses. And other merge the faces and mannerisms of those close to them into characters they care about.

What did I learn from those answers? In large part, it seems like the faces of strangers give us free reign to let our imaginations shine through writing.  So, Reader, how do you visualize your characters?

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