Visualizing characters

I seem to work with character dichotomies. So far in the two novels I’ve worked on, I’ve had two protagonists for each story. One has emerged from my psyche (or wherever these people come from) pretty much whole like the myth of Athena bursting from Zeus’ head. (One protag has been pretty warlike so that’s apropos) The other protag hides their personality and thought process from me. The cliche of pulling teeth being easier is really the truth in that case.

For Night Shift, the character with the hidden personality has been Devorah, which is very awkward because she’s also the POV character. Hard to tell a story through somebody’s eyes when you don’t know much about that somebody!

I’m a visual person so I thought having some kind of picture might help me define her better. I came up with these. They’re not exactly how I think of Devorah but they give me something concrete to work with.

Devorah2 Devorah4

Devorah is a Crosser, one of the humans who work undercover in the ranks of demons; they ultimately answer to the God of Light. Many demons keep their human forms so they can work more effectively in the human realm. Crossers must blend in among full demons so they usually wear a lot of black. Devorah also wears some blue because she’s aligned with the element of water. She puts a steampunk spin on the usual demon attire; I had a hard time finding clothing items I thought fit with that but these work for what I need.

Many Crossers also invent an alternate persona they fall back on when they must engage in the inevitable demon behavior. For example, before Devorah could be admitted to one of the local demon groups, she had to perform an initiation challenge. If she completed the challenge without flinching, she was accepted. Her challenge was murder, a typical demon bit of behavior. The alternate persona is similar to the persona undercops use. Devorah’s demon persona is known as Malicia. It’s common for demons to use names that we think of as a bit corny; they’re not an especially creative bunch!

So this is what I came up with for Malicia. She has a “uniform” that often includes an army jacket and/or army boots, or something camo. She also had blue streaks put in her hair.

Devorah3

I don’t currently have a way to make an avatar for Kazimir, although it’s not really necessary since he was so clear and developed almost from day 1 that I had to stop him from taking over the story!

Characters . . . some you love, some drive you quite insane, some you wouldn’t want to be in the same country with, some just drift into stories then out again when their job is done. But you’ve got to have a clear sense of who they are if they’re going to be effective whether they’re the POV character or a minor player. Seeing pictures helps make them more real for me which, hopefully, translates to the typed page.

How about you? Do you find a picture of your characters helpful whether you can already visualize them or not? Does your idea of their physical appearance change as you write more about them?

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