The idea for my current novel came from a dream, so I had a visual of my main character Jalal from the start. In general, I first see my characters as a type and then I picture someone, usually a celebrity, who fits the type. I’ve visualized my character Meredith as three different actresses and now, she’s a sort of combination of all three. My character Renee started out tall and blonde, but when her backstory changed, so did her appearance.
Yesterday, in my blog comments, Susan Bearman lamented that she hasn’t been able to “see” her main character. On her own blog, she’s described his hair, eyes, smile, hands, and yet she feels his face is fuzzy. She concluded she’s not a “visual thinker.”
I’m a portrait artist, so I’m very “face oriented” and don’t think I could write about my characters, if I had no mental pictures of them. I need to see the details, not only of their faces, but of their clothes, homes, cars, places of work, places they shop, what they eat, etcetera, even though most of these details don’t factor into the story. I have to believe my characters exist, on some level, to write about them convincingly.
Maybe I’m obsessed. Maybe I’m insane. Tell me, if you write fiction, how much effort do you put into visualizing your characters and their world?