I need my characters to come to life quickly for me and this time, I’m trying a shortcut. Photos.
It’s easy to go to google.com/images or flickr.com and search for images that might fit your characters. Start with a gender (male/female) and age (child, teen, adult, senior, 30s, 40s, etc).
Ethnic background. For my story, I knew that one character had a mixed-ethnic background, combining Asian and Caucasian heritage. What I didn’t know was how strong the genes might be on either side of that, and how they might change for different Asian/northern European mixes. Even better, I found personal stories of growing up multicultural. Sites like this make it easier to add a unique richness to a character, avoiding stereotypes that might result from a specific ethnic background.
Physical description. Frankly, my physical descriptions have gotten stale. I’m not particularly visually oriented and inventing characters physical looks is usually last on my list of writing chores. I keep thinking, “But it’s the inner character that matters.” Of course. But physical looks matter, too. I took several photos and really observed closely, trying for fresh descriptions. Here are three boys. How would you describe each one to make him come alive as a character?
Historical photos. Photos are gold when you are writing historical fiction. Notice details of clothing, shoes, hair styles, setting, surroundings, etc. and use these details as you write.
What’s your favorite way to use photos to establish characters?