Characters · Writing Tips and Prompts

Character Inspiration

How did she end up here? or less obviously, what is his story?

I was at loss for what to write this week, so I got on Pinterest. Contrary to popular belief among my family members, this is a valuable research tool and not merely a way to procrastinate (though I’ll admit to doing that as well).

One of the great things about Pinterest is that it is a visual website. Though writers work with words, we want to be able to create mental pictures in our readers minds. If you start with a visual image, it can be easier to paint a picture for the reader. I read a quote once, which I cannot now find, that said something like this: “If you think in pictures, write. If you think in words, paint.”

I usually find that if I have an image in my head for an art piece, it’s impossible to transfer it onto a canvas in a way that makes me happy. But if I write a story about that same image, the results usually turn out much better. I rarely think in words unless framing them around an image, so if the idea in this quote is true I suppose it could help explain why I’ve always considered myself a writer with an interest in art rather than an artist.

What’s her story? why is she crying behind the camera?

Back to the idea of images, one of my favorite Pinterest boards that I’ve set up is Character Inspiration. W. Somerset Maugham said, “You can never know enough about your characters,” and that includes knowing what each character looks like and why they look that way. I usually try to pin images that not only give ideas for a character’s appearance, but also hint at their occupation or emotion. Take this picture that I just came across today. Is she a professional photographer that’s trying to work through a tough time in her life? A mother who is taking pictures while trying not to let her children see her cry?


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