Constructing a Character : Visualization


For me a visual reference helps keep my mind in focus and really feel and experience what I’m writing about.

Previously in my Constructing a Character Pt.1 I showed ways of finding inspiration. Now I’ll show you another way to approach constructing a character for your film or short story.

Here is a quick example I scribbled:


The above image would usually come about when I’m sitting around playing with a theme in my mind. This character theme could be “everyday people with superpowers” or something like that. Then I branch off to the first thing that comes to mind, for me it was a girl in a red dress wearing blue converse sitting alone at a bar. I quickly sketch that out and from there play with other concepts. A pyrokinetic with an odd fashion sense. Then from there I imagine a few ways we could introduce her to the audience along with her powers.

The sketches aren’t meant to be storyboard quality. It’s just one of my methods of brainstorming.

The Mental Process Step-By-Step


I’ll see a person in my mind sometimes I’ll immediately start sketching them down or I’ll ask myself these questions and then draw then out:

“Who are they?”
“What makes them a unique individual?”
“What story are they telling about themselves with the way they look?”

The Character Book 

Just like someone might have a book of ideas written down I find the things I do are a combination of both. Rough sketches of characters along side key points about them.


This kind of process is useful if you have a little bit of an artistic or design background. I do and that’s why I really like this approach. If you don’t feel like sketching but still are very much a visual thinker and like to see your ideas try a little Photoshop magic.

The Character Collage

Use Adobe Photoshop and Google Image to stitch together a scene or character.
That way you have a visual reference you can easily share with others.


In the above image I can start brainstorming about her backstory, where she’s from and the obstacles she encounters in the story.

Adobe also has a free mobile and iPad app Adobe Photoshop Mix that helps you easily cut up and create a collage from images you capture on your phone.

There is never a single way to expressing this mysterious power called creativity. Sketch out your characters, or write a journal pretending to be them, make collages or act them out.

Find ways to express your story through words or through images, whatever you choose, have fun with it! 

Constructing a Character : Inspiration


People are fascinating their lives are a complex web of stories constantly rewriting themselves according to beliefs, choices and experiences.

I love listening to people talk recounting a funny thing that happened on the way to the grocery store or an amazing life changing event it’s all interesting to me. I’ll observe the unique way someone talks, their mannerisms, habits, and personality. There’s no end to the uniqueness of a person.

How do we show all of that on paper and make an amazing memorable character for a film, web-series, comic book or novel?

You can use character generators as a starting point but I’d recommend being very creative with it as opposed to just copying the description as is.

Mix it up and reinterpret the description for example this is a character generated from Archetype’s Character Generator:Screen Shot 2013-09-22 at 4.12.59 PMHere’s a short example of my brainstorm around this generated character:

“Alright, let’s look up ‘religiosity’ to see how we can interpret that. She doesn’t have to have a specific religion maybe just her own rituals, moral code and maybe carry something that’s deeply symbolic for her. Her weakness is a sports addiction.. hmm.. What if she takes part in sports betting? What sport? Let’s pick one at random like chess boxing! Prized possession is a copy of Nostradamus’ predictions. What if that’s part of her religiosity? That’s a little obvious.. How can we make this more unique? What if she interprets the predictions in a way that helps her place her bets? Or it’s an old hardcover that was converted into a hollow book to hide secret gambling information? The last idea sounds kind of fun I’ll go with that one.” Now the story can begin to unfold around the book, her beliefs and her gambling problems. I can go back change things around and combine it with other ideas.

It’s important to really get inside the head of your characters and breathe some life into them.

Use character questionnaires to help you flesh out your character. You can also use the questions as prompts in your freewriting.

Sometimes I like to freewrite a page or so from a character’s journal. If you’ve never kept a journal it’s essentially a place to go over personal musings, philosophies, rants, and keeping track of day to day activities. Have your character take some time out and muse about their lives.

Create an interview with that character using questions that would help you examine their personality, motivations and life history. Also take a look at real interview questions and watch some talk shows and imagine how your characters would answer. Think about how their body language, posture, and habits would show.

Have fun with it!

If you feel like your character is still too flat, cliche or somethings missing take a break go out for a bit watch some real life people then come back to the writer’s desk.

Here are some resources for more character related inspiration..