Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Drawing Characters can help a Writer Get to Know Them

Writers have various ways to get to 'know' their characters.  For me, I like to do a Q & A with my characters.  I'm like a reporter or talk-show host and I ask them questions and they answer.  This helps me get inside the 'head' of the character.

But when it comes to physical description, I have found it hard at times to physically describe a person (or entity) that doesn't really exist.  Because I'm a visual person, I find that drawing the character can help me get a better handle on physical description, especially for non-human characters.  Here a few that I've done.

For 'Emily's House', a character you'll meet early on is Hindergog.  He's not human though he can speak and he wears clothes.  Early on in the writing of that manuscript, I had to draw Hindergog to get a visual on him.

That's the first drawing I did of Hindergog.  I liked the eyes and the nose is just about right, but I wasn't sure about the fangs.  This is my second drawing, done about a year later.

I liked the ears better in the second one but I still like the eyes best from the first one.  Both helped me to really see Hindergog and I think that helped my description of him.

Lately I'm working on the manuscript for 'H.A.L.F.' (which is an acronym for 'Human Alien Life Form').  Because one of the main characters, Tex, is an alien-human hybrid, I wanted to get a handle on what that mash-up looks like.  I started with drawing first a 'grey' alien based on the 'alien autopsy' photos on the internet.

Drawing of a 'Grey'
This isn't great, but you get the idea.  Greys are often depicted with super-bulbous heads (some speculate because they have an extra lobe in their brain).  They are described as having very small mouth openings and small noses.  

What happens when you morph a grey with a young human male?  Here's my rendition:

'Tex', a H.A.L.F.

When I morphed them, the head is human just more bulbous.  He has ears while the alien does not.  His nose is more prominent.  His mouth is still small but slightly larger.  One of the things that came from this exercise is that Tex has a more human chin and jawline, not quite so angular - more square.

But the eyes are the same overly large, dark eyes.  This is a prominent feature of Tex and has impact on the storyline.

Do you find the last one, the drawing of Tex, unnerving?  He's hanging up in my office now on my bulletin board and I have to say, I find him a bit scary!  When I catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye he sort of freaks me out!

If you're a writer, do you ever draw your characters?

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