My OCs. From left to right: Yule, Vivienne, Finnegan, Desiree and Leander

Characters change as you write them. This is, I think, a natural thing which cannot be avoided. As drafts pan out initial concepts disintegrate and reform in new guises. Sometimes even things as seemingly fixed as names and ages have to be altered to fit new storylines, different settings, and a maturing author’s increasing awareness of realism.

I have been writing the same book since the day before I turned seventeen, and I can tell you from my own experience that five years is enough time for a lot of changes. My five main characters are, for the most part, unrecognisable as the same ones I started out with.

Irrespective of artistic talent (I did an A-Level in Fine Art, but you’d never believe it), there are definite benefits to ‘seeing’ your characters. For one thing, you can make a better judgement on whether they really do look believable. Drawing also offers the opportunity to experiment with new styles and settings in a way that is very time-consuming to write about.

Let’s face it, your characters probably won’t go through their whole story with only one outfit, and how they look at a ball is likely to differ greatly from their battlefield appearance. Even if your characters live out their lives in a series of similar settings, roleplay activities can show us sides of our characters which the stories we are writing do not. My opinion is that seeing characters in different situations, eras, and styles makes them a bit more real in their creator’s mind.

So what do I, who can’t really draw, do?

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It sounds a bit creepy, but I use dolls. More precisely, online doll makers, of which there are a wide selection to be found. Looking past the girly-girl pink and purple web designs, and are, in my opinion, the best in terms of choice, especially for male doll makers.

There’s an argument to be made that commissioning someone else to draw your characters is a more worthwhile exercise. Not only do you then get to see your characters, but you can also tell whether your articulation of them translates into someone visualising them in the same way. However, I think even the best description is seldom over-specific, and all writings are open to interpretation.

The only way you can really get the pictures from your head out with total accuracy is to create them yourself. Doll makers have their limits, since they are subject to the options provided by the game (lack of body types can be an issue), but using several to create a mood board, is, I think, the most effective way to get a sketchy idea of what your characters really look like, since the middle man has no opinion. The doll maker will let you do as you please, especially if you’re creative enough to fiddle about with the drag n’ drop sections.

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Before I go, I’d just like to say that if you have other visualisation methods, please do let me know – I would be very interested to try them.

And finally, here is a list of the doll makers used to create the images featured in this post:

  • The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit Scene Maker (on both sites)
  • Epic Angel (Azaleas Dolls)
  • Erté Elegance (Doll Divine)
  • Viking Woman (Azaleas Dolls)
  • Game of Thrones Scene Maker (on both sites)
  • Prince Maker (Doll Divine)
  • Nøkken Maker (Doll Divine)
  • Sci-fi Warrior 2 Dress Up (Azaleas Dolls)