Image Search

One of my biggest challenges as a writer is describing people.

As I’ve worked to improve my writing, and had other people read my stuff, that’s one thing that has come up several times.  My visual friends – the ones who process the world in images – all complain that they don’t know what my characters look like.  Sure, I might mention green eyes or that someone is tall, but I never give enough description to create a complete image in their head.

This is because I am not a visual person.  When I’m reading and someone is describing a person, or a place, or even an item in great detail, I don’t get an image in my head.  I hear the description mentally, as if someone were reading an audiobook in my mind, but words don’t build pictures for me.

(Related but off-topic: my memories are more likely to be sounds, too.  I can hear my mom’s voice in my mind way better than I can picture her.)

In order to help myself with this challenge of describing characters, I’ve started making use of the internet.  By searching things like “black woman with braids” and “brown hair freckles kid” I’ve been able to find pictures of random, real people that look close enough to my characters that I can use them as reference.  I can describe things if I can see them, and now I can see my characters!

I had to pause in tonight’s writing for an image search.  Three kids have just appeared in the life of my main character, and they’ll be around long enough that my readers will want to know what they look like.  I already know how they act and sound; now I can make sure my friends have something to picture, too, as they read the story.


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