Friday, January 6, 2017

Using Drawing as a Character Exercise, a guest post from Victoria Grace Howell


Hey all! Shannon here! I'm happy to introduce our first guest blogger of 2017. Please welcome Victoria Grace Howell. She has some killer thoughts on a subject I know very little about. I enjoyed her post immensely and I know you will too. 
 
Victoria Grace Howell is an award-winning, author of speculative fiction, a social media manager, an editor for the non-profit organization, Geeks Under Grace, a staff writer for Geekdom House, and has been published in Splickety: Havok Magazine and Area of Effect MagazineSince she was a child growing up in the state of Georgia, she’s always had a heart for stories. When not typing away at her novels, she enjoys drawing her characters, blogging at Wanderer’s Pen, practicing Kung Fu, cosplaying, and having a really good hot cup of tea.

Very rarely do writers only excel at writing. Multitudes of artistic talents can enhance a writer’s talents on the page. I’ve found that drawing is a particular tool as I craft my characters. Since I was little, I’ve taken pencil to paper and sketched out my many brain children—though I didn’t consider my skills good enough to show off until I turned twenty. I’ve learned how to draw from art classes, online videos (Mark Crilley is amazing), books, and even a particularly good class at DragonCon. The most memorable thing about it was a single quote from the instructor: What your character wears shows who they are.

Think about that a moment.

When you choose your outfit in the morning, purchase new clothes, and decide how much effort you’re going to put into your hair and make-up, you personalize how you want the world to see you. You may choose hoop earrings over studs, pick a button-up top over a graphic t-shirt, or get your hair done at a parlor instead of putting it up in a ponytail. That information alone tells a lot about your personality, your job, your school, and even your finances. We can take that a step further to physical attributes: how you smile, stand, walk, and so forth.

Let’s look at two examples:



Meet Dina. She’s one of my side characters from my work in progress Red Hood. What is your first impression of her from this drawing? We can discern she has a sweet disposition as evident from her smile; her button up shirt and cloak allude to an older time period; her hair is braided for practicality; she’s wearing leather armor, implying she is a warrior; and the flowers on her collar hints that she has a girly side.


This is Tony Stark from Iron Man, rich playboy and superhero. In this photo, he has a designer suit, nicely trimmed beard, and expensive product in his hair. This implies that he has the money to afford such gel and mousse, and he makes time to take care of himself. His expression clues us into his attitude.

Little things define who a person is. This is something to keep in mind when describing your characters in your story, and this is something drawing your characters helps you hone. I don’t feel like I truly know my characters until I’ve drawn them. I take note of key details I need to point out in their descriptions to make them stand out among other characters. Dina’s frizzy hair, girly embellishments on her rough and tough warrior clothes, and her olive skin are very key. I’d say Tony’s key features are his beard, his snarky smirk, and his sunglasses.

Test if physical features will realistically work on a character. Sometimes an outfit that seems great in your head looks impractical when you draw it. Compare your characters and define what makes them stand out among each other and if some look too alike. Test your wardrobe ideas for disguises as well, and see what outfits won’t make them look like their true selves. Often we have characters with complicated jewelry, outfits, or tattoos. Drawing them acts as a liaison between your brain and the page. Seeing it helps you find words to describe it.

Since I’ve started analyzing my characters visually through my art I feel like I know them on a deeper level. My descriptions have become more vivid, unique, and pointed. And it’s really inspiring to have pictures of my characters to motivate me to keep writing them.

Have you ever drawn your characters? Have you tried any of the ideas suggested? Who’s your favorite character to draw?

33 comments:

  1. Ooh!! I LOVE this. I love to draw but I've never tried drawing my characters. Now I will, though... :) Great idea!

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    1. Do it! I actually taught myself out to draw because I wanted to draw my characters. XD Thanks for commenting!

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  2. I would draw my characters, only I'm terrible at drawing. I tried drawing characters once and now whenever I think of them, that image sticks in my head. That wouldn't be a bad thing if I could draw well, BUT I CAN'T. (A little scolding to my brain-hand connection.) I like to think through words.
    I may ask a friend of mine who enjoys drawing to do my characters for me, though.

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    1. I was awful at drawing when I first started, but what made me draw was wanting to draw my characters. Also asking a friend is a great idea or using an online program. ^ ^ Thanks so much for commenting!

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  3. Great post! I definitely agree--drawing your characters and figuring out their outfit(s) is definitely helpful for writing. (Especially those annoying side characters who tend to just be floating voices with no description, if you're at all like me!)

    For anyone who "can't draw," another option that I've seen people use is looking up those online dress up games (Rinmaru has a bunch of good ones) and designing your character and their wardrobe. Or you could ask a friend to draw them for you, but remember to be polite and courteous, and don't expect them to draw your entire cast! Unless you're paying them, it's a gift they're giving to you so remember to be grateful for any art they agree to draw.

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    1. Thank you! Exactly! I've had that same problem. XD

      That's a great! I actually did this before I got my drawing skill where I wanted it to be. Thanks for adding the suggestion and for commenting. :)

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  4. You watch Mark Crilley too?! Great post, Victoria! I have only drawn a few of my characters, since I am still working on honing my artistic skills to translate a specific image from my mind to the sketch pad, but it is really helpful. My favorite of those I've done is my drawing of a character named Stella, whom I created for one of Mrs. Dittemore's Friday prompts and later installed in a science fiction story. I loved designing her outfit to reflect her saucy personality, her time period, and her hobby--mechanics. It helped me nail down certain aspects of her costume, which in turn enriched my written descriptions of her. Thank you for sharing, Victoria! And again, I'm really excited to know I'm not the only writer/artist who watches Mark Crilley. Isn't he amazing?

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    1. Mark Crilley fan! Woot woot! *high fives you* I'm so glad this has helped you! That's so cool!

      Mark Crilly is the best. His Mastering Manga drawing books revolutionized my drawing. Thanks so much for commenting! It's an honor to meet another Crilley fan!

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    2. Same here! I don't believe I've read any of his Mastering Manga books, since my library system doesn't carry them, but I love his YouTube channel. He is so funny! And I tend to draw (or attempt to draw) in a more realistic, draw-what-you see kind of style, so his videos on realism really help me grow. However, trying manga stretched my abilities and challenged me to view art differently. Thanks again for sharing! So exciting!

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    3. Mark Crilley is awesome!! I got his Mastering Manga 3 when it came out and it is a marvelous tool. I'm so glad y'all like him too :)

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  5. Thank you so much, Victoria! I'm loving the comments here, you guys. I'll have to look up those online dress up games, Catsi!

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    1. You're welcome. ^ ^ I agree! Great discussions!

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  6. This was really interesting, Victoria. I have no artistic abilities at all, but I can see how this would be a really useful exercise for writers. Thanks for being on the blog today!

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    1. Like Catsi mentioned earlier commissioning someone or using an online generator is another way to do it. ^ ^ Thanks so much for having me!

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  7. I like to draw my characters as well, but I don't have much time to draw them often. My favorite of my characters to draw is Jackson, although his design is one of the hardest to draw.

    Like Catsi said, Rimmaru is useful for online character designs, especially their Mega Anime Creator. Doll Divine and Azalea's Dolls are pretty good, too.

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    1. Haha. I feel the same way with my character Ingrid. Her wings take a long time to draw. XD Thanks for commenting!

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  8. Fun post, Victoria! I have drawn some of my characters. It was a lot of fun, and I do think it helped me, especially with their clothing. Since then I've only ever chosen pictures of actors or athletes to represent, and that's helpful too, but I never thought about lacking the clothing angle. I might have to draw some characters for my next project. Thanks for the post! :-)

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    1. That's really cool! I've chosen actors too to get a general idea, but then I like to draw so I can see exactly what they look like. Thanks for commenting. ^ ^

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  9. I absolutely love to draw! I have practiced so much; it is very encouraging to look back on old drawings and to finally see an improvement haha. It is super fun to design characters especially from stories, although, I have difficulty putting pictures from my head on paper sometimes. It is a lot easier for me to see something and then draw it.

    - Elizabeth Paige

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    1. Isn't it? It is easier, but there's a certain magic about taking something from your head and then seeing it on paper. Don't you think? Thanks for commenting!

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  10. I'm terrible at drawing, haha xD. But this sounds like so much fun that I might try my hand at it anyways ;). (and your picture of Dina is wonderful, I really like it!)

    ~ Savannah
    scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com

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    1. Aw thank you! You should give it a shot. Practice makes perfect. ;)

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  11. Interesting post, Victoria! I like your way of interpreting characters. I've tried to draw a few of mine but I couldn't quite pin down their features. (Is this just me or does anyone else imagine their characters (or any characters) with slightly indistinct facial features? I'm not sure why but I can never picture them with perfect clarity.) My friend has drawn some amazing pictures of two of my characters, though, and they look really good.

    This reminds me of an old post about "Sherlock Holmes-ing" your characters--essentially thinking about what Sherlock would deduce from their appearance and actions if he ever met them.

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    1. True, Julia. I have a vague idea of what my female characters look like, but often I have a REALLY vague idea about my male characters. Once I nail down more features, I may ask my friend who sketches all the time to help me draw them. She's really good. In my opinion. :P

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    2. You're not the only one. XD That's super cool! Thanks so much for commenting. :)

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  12. This post came at the exact moment when it would be most helpful to me! My best friend offered to draw characters for me and a few other girls at school, since I love to draw, but I'm not very good and I do pencil drawings (no color). I actually sent everyone a link to this post because it is so perfect!
    I love the idea that clothes can tell you so much about a character. I've always loved designing character outfits, but I never thought about how much it reveals about their personality. I guess I should pay more attention to that!

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    1. Oh that's cool!

      It's crazy huh? It blew my mind when I heard that. Thanks so much for commenting!

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  13. This is such a cool idea! I never thought about characters that way! Thanks for the great idea's Victoria! Although, I can NOT draw. :/ I might ask a friend to help me though. :) Thanks again. :)
    <>Jessica<> :)

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    1. You're so welcome. You should. ^ ^ Thanks for commenting!

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  14. Yes I love drawing my characters, and scenes, and their clothes, that is what I most often draw actually.

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    1. That's so cool! :D Who are some of your favorite characters to draw? Thanks for commenting. :)

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  15. Wow! Neat idea! I've done something like this before, but I make Lego Minifigures out of them instead. I'll have to try it with drawing too.

    Also, thanks to Julia Gaia for mentioning the 'Sherlock Holmes-ing your characters' thing! I hadn't seen that post. (PS, I can never imagine their faces clearly when I write about them either.)

    ~ Gracelyn

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