16 October 2010

Authors & Readers: how well do you "see" the character?

I was struck today, when I was listening to THE SKULL BENEATH THE SKIN by P.D. James, how intricate and detailed the description of the various characters was, right down to the frown marks between the eyebrows and the slightly thick legs.

And I wondered how many people are like me, and usually have only a vague idea of what a character looks like?

I wondered, if I was a writer, whether I would bother to draw a stick figure with major characteristics marked in, or whether I'd even go as far as getting an artist to draw a rough sketch.


Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - What an interesting question! As a reader, I do try to get an image of a character, and when the book's well-written, I can do that. In fact, I'm sometimes put off when my image of a character turns out to be different from the actor who plays that character in a movie. I think that's because I prefer to create my own mental image.

As an author, I usually have a very clear picture in my mind of what the characters look like. I need that so I can imagine how they act and move and so on. But I don't like to overburden what I write with too much detail, as I prefer to let the reader create her or his own picture.

Heartbeatoz said...

For some reason whenever I read a book I always seem to get a Picture of the Characters in my Head sometimes from the Authors description or the tone of the Book , but if there is a Television Series made then the Actors come to mind but Miss Marple will forever be an image of my Grandmother.
If I was a writer I would have images already of my Characters in my Head playing out like a Movie, I've always had a vivid imagination one of my faults as a child too much daydreaming.

Donna said...

Interesting question. Since I cannot draw, I tend to use actors/actresses as a "database" from which I compose a book's characters. Sometimes, I'll even go so far as to say who should portray specific characters if the book is made into a movie.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I'm like Margot - I prefer my mental image over actors. I didn't like watching the Lord of the Rings films because of that and to some extent it has spoilt my enjoyment of the books. I'm wary now about seeing film versions of my favourite books.

Despite the Ken Stott and John Hannah versions of Rebus, because Rankin's description of him is minimal I only have a vague image of what he looks like and it isn't Ken or John. I like it that way.

But Miss Marple is Joan Hickson and Poirot is David Suchet!

(And yes, Kerrie, blogging is addictive.)

Brian Kavanagh said...

I agree with Margot, both in writing and reading. Too much detail about a character's physical attributes or dress gets in the way, at least for me. An indication of their type and how they behave in the book, is more conducive to creating a mental image of the person. After all, when you meet people for the first time you get an initial impression but it is only after you get to know them that their full personality is apparent. Fictional characters should be the same.

Dorte H said...

Interesting question, Kerrie!

And of course Miss Marple is Joan Hickson!

I neither form a clear picture of the characters when I read nor when I write. What matters to me is their behaviour and their ´voice´. So I could easily give a character grey eyes in the first chapters and blue eyes later (I try not to, of course), but I do my very best to create consistent characters who are not spiteful one day and thoughtful the next - unless there is a reason.

I do create a character file, however (of the type I´ve posted today), to remind myself what I intend them to be like, and where I add information when I have given them an eye colour, hair colour etc.

Yvette said...

Great question. I don't always find it necessary to have a finely detailed picture of the characters in my imagination. I'm just as happy with a kind of vague generalization lurking in my brain as I read. I do like to know hair color and height and a few other details if possible, then I form my own ideas.
For me, personality is the key to all things.


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