This post first appeared (in a shorter version) on my art blog.
Looking back over my sketchbooks I found some drawings of people (!) and noticed a pattern in them. As a fiction writer, I find I sometimes draw characters in order to better understand them. The pencil drawing here is of JRR Tolkien’s Eowyn (from the Lord of the Rings). The drawing is clearly expressing one part of her character – that which is vulnerable and open. It does not really express the more war-like elements of her story. I was really thinking about this aspect of her characterisation after seeing the film interpretation and finding Eowyn more fragile than I had imagined her.
A contrasting drawing is that of Elsa (a character from my own fiction manuscript).
I drew this image at a time when I was imagining her character evolving from a quite passive girlhood to a more severe adulthood. Again, this is only one element of her character, but the drawing allowed me to really witness her potential to become a dangerous and even frightening person – thus helping me in my writing!
I think it’s really helpful and inspiring for writers to have visual reminders of who their characters are. When first starting a story you can find inspiration online, or even in magazines (though can be limiting if you prefer your characters not to all look like supermodels).
At the least you can be sure you won’t forget their eye colour. At best they will become even more real to you. And when a character is fully realised in your mind, it is that much easier to write her onto the page and into the minds of others.