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 Magazine. Since 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?