Thursday, April 17, 2014

Birthing Great Characters by Dora Hiers

Dora here. Over the last few years, I have been blessed with many writer friends whose encouragement and fellowship make this writing journey so much sweeter. One such friend is award-winning inspirational author, Myra Johnson. Shortly after she moved to NC, we began teaming up to offer presentations covering a number of writing topics. One of our most popular workshops is Creating Characters that Come Alive. With her permission, over the next couple of months I will be sharing a few "teasers" from our workshop.

Are you a visual person? Do you see my hand waving high in the air?
How many times have you shelled out good money to watch a movie after reading the book, and then been disappointed that the actor/actress didn’t look anything like the image in your head? Did it spoil the movie for you?
Or, perhaps as a writer, you have no trouble glossing over body parts without a firm picture in your head...
“Kindness glimmered from his rugged, just-woke-up-and-no-time-to-shave face, and his powerful shoulders suggested he was a man who could carry any burden, no matter how heavy.”  ~Rori’s Healing, coming soon with Pelican Book Group
But what about painting the picture of your hero's face? Do you need something concrete? An image you can relate to, eyes for you to glimpse into their soul and to discover who they really are beneath the mask they show the world?

So what's the first step I take to bring my characters to life? 

I give them a face.
Here is a list of my favorite spots to find faces.
Magazines or department store sales fliers. Sometimes you can get several pictures of the same model in different clothes and poses.
Online sites like IMDb (an entertainment site) or Pinterest. Keep in mind copyright infringement laws. I only use these pictures for my reference.

Wikipedia. Not only is Wikipedia loaded with photos, it’s also a great source for character bios, which can be tweaked for your story.

Someone you know in real life. Maybe you know someone with the right look or a certain characteristic, like hair or eye color. Readers will appreciate and relate to your characters more if they’re not perfect or model gorgeous.

I don’t know about you, but my hero and heroine have to look good together or match. Initially in Journey’s Embrace, my love interests weren’t clicking for me, so a few pages into writing, I switched the hero out with another, and whoa! The words literally flowed from my fingertips, and the romantic tension was exactly what the original characters lacked.

Just a note of caution, though, as we’re discussing characters. Do what works to get the words on the page, but don’t become overly attached to the images you’ve formed while writing. Once you get that contract, you’ll submit a description of your characters to your editor, but it’s up to the publisher to find the closest match from their available stock photos. You may or may not have a final say in their choice.

Writers, what is your favorite destination to find faces for your characters?
Readers, chime in with your favorite fictional characters and why they are special to you.

Join us next month when we’ll give our characters a ...
hmmm, you'll just have to stop back by to find out. :)

Journey's Embrace
Purchase Link
After an injury forces Deputy U.S. Marshal Sage Michaelson off duty, he heads to his hometown with two things on his mind: recuperating and reevaluating, but Sage can’t refuse his best friend’s plea to keep a protective eye on his little sister after someone ransacks her house. But Delaney’s not so little anymore—and definitely not the young “Dane” Sage remembers. 

Flight Medic Delaney Hunt has loved Sage forever. But, he’s all about control and order while she embraces life and takes risks. As much as the idea appeals to her, she doesn’t need Sage looking over her shoulder. But when things go wrong and she finds herself hanging by her fingertips, who does she call to rescue her? 

Dora Hiers
Will Delaney ever be the woman Sage wants by his side? Can Sage learn to live by grace, recognizing that God is in control? Can they overcome their fears to embrace life together?

Dora Hiers is a multi-published author of Heart Racing, God-Gracing romances. She’s a member of RWA, ACFW, and the Treasurer for ACFW-Charlotte Chapter. Connect with her here on Seriously Write, her personal blogTwitterFacebook or Pinterest.


  1. Another great place to find faces--art museums. One of my main characters is tall, thin and quite serious, from a good family and always in trouble stumbling towards Christianity. I pretty much knew how he looked but when I found this painting of a young serious man in evening attire looking bored listening to a pretty girl beside him I almost died--that was Buck Crenshaw! Writing has so many surprises.

    1. Art museums? Oh, I love that, Adrienne. I never would have thought of an art museum, but it sounds like the perfect place to find such an intriguing character. Writing is never the same from one day to the next, is it? Such a wonderful journey. Thanks for stopping by! :)

  2. Dora, I usually find my characters in magazines or catalogs. I love being able to put up a picture on my bulletin board. And you are so right - they have to look like they go together.

    1. That's how I found characters for my first 2 books. But now that I use OneNote to record my character details, I like to find/use a digital image. But I can see how pinning them to a bulletin board and staring at them while you write drills their features into your brain and keeps them forefront in your mind, right? Cool!

  3. I once heard an author recommend you look at actors. Her reasoning is you can watch a video to see how they move as well as being able to see their faces in a wide range of emotions.

    1. That's a fabulous idea, Terri! And taping their voice makes sense, too, so you could play it back later. :D

  4. Great ideas, Dora! I'm totally visual, too. If I don't have the character set in my head, I can't "hear" them. Another resource: Kaye Dacus creates a casting book of actors by age, height and description. She also offers a copy of her own here:

    1. Me, too. I'm so glad I'm not alone! :D
      Wow! Kaye's site looks like a great source for info, Angie. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Dora, I love the lines from Rori's healing!

    I'm a visual person, so it helps for me to use photos when I think about my characters. I've tried using photos of models, but I seem to gravitate toward actors or people I know. I can picture how they move, hear their voice, etc. I use Pinterest as a place to keep my visuals.

    1. Thank you, Dawn. Glad you enjoyed that little goodie. :)
      I use actors occasionally, but I don't watch enough television to recognize too many. Bummer.
      You're so right, though, about hearing their voice. That goes a long way in making them real in our heads.

  6. All good information, ladies. I, too, like to use actors for the very reason you described--the ability to see in my mind how they move. Sometimes, I have to be careful that I don't let their popular TV or movie character slip into the character I'm writing, though. I'll have to check out Kaye Dacus' site, Angie.

    1. You have to keep the story line firmly embedded in your head in order for that not to be an issue, otherwise, yes, I can see that happening, especially with strong characters. Thank you, Sandy. :)

  7. Hi Dora, so sorry to be so late getting here. We have been out of town, then it was grand-baby sitting and getting ready for Easter. I so get what you mean here; often even the book cover doesn't match either H or H That's why I always ask for head-less covers but rarely get my way LOL. I do sometimes get inspired by a catalog or magazine face. Country singer Jake Owens is a recent inspiration LOL also the Cullen Bohannan character in Hell on Wheels. And I just love Delaney and Sage's story. It's definitely a "you gotta read this" book! xo


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