The Art of Character Visualization in Fantasy Fiction Writing

I always enjoy hearing about how great writers design their writing process. I always come away with some great ideas on how to evolve my own process. The writing process is truly a unique art form to each writer. What many aspiring fiction writers may not realize is that there is a significant gap from taking a story idea from concept to drafting each page of your next novel. Character visualization is a tool that I use in my own practice to help me to traverse the creative gap quickly and not get stuck in a rut.

I often find myself having a few different components that I need to take from a high level and integrate into my characters and story such as:

  • Overarching theme(s)
  • Triggers (sights, sounds, smells, feelings, observations, etc.)
  • Storyline Progression

For example, let’s imagine that my overarching theme for my story or book is action, adventure and suspense and my sub-theme for this particular chapter might be building suspense. I have this concept of building suspense but how do I kickoff the chapter? What is or what does my character need to be doing in order to build suspense throughout this portion and progress the storyline? This is where character visualization can be helpful.

Start by visualizing the character that needs to be in that specific scene either mentally or even on paper and utilize the following prompts.

Character Visualization Prompts

  • What is your character doing physically?
    • Sitting
    • Standing
    • Lying Down
    • Listening
    • Squatting
    • Crying
    • Heaving
    • Breathing
    • Not Breathing
    • Laughing
    • Staring
  • What is their facial expression?
    • Grimacing
    • Smiling
    • Squinting
    • Happy
    • Sad
    • Mad
    • Indifferent
  • What are they wearing?
    • Shoes
    • No Shoes
    • Clothes
    • A Belt
  • What is the setting?
    • Forest
    • Table
    • Tower
    • Castle
    • Outdoors
    • Indoors
    • Dungeon
    • Courtyard
  • What will they interact with?
    • Nature
    • Themselves
    • A Group
    • One Other Person
    • An Object
  • How will they express what they feel?
    • Action
    • Conversation
    • Observation
    • Thinking
  • What are some other factors that impact them?
    • Are they itchy?
    • In pain?
    • Weather issues?
    • Do they step on a sharp rock?
    • Do they have a sprained ankle?
    • Are they rubbing a sore spot on their arm?
    • Do they have a back ache?
    • Are they tired?

Now it’s time to put it all together and visualize. Let’s imagine an interaction between a Princess that is meeting with her father who is a King. Let’s decide that they are familiar at this point in the story and not estranged and of course include all of the other components in their character profiles. In returning to our example of building suspense, you could open up the chapter with a bang.

“There’s my beautiful girl.”

 

The King’s voice carried over the echoey courtyard and his enthusiasm brought a smile to Duchess’ face. Duchess turned and embraced her father warmly.

 

“You look tired papa. Is everything alright?”

 

“The war rages on my love but as for today we are lucky to live in safety with our people.”

 

“What about tomorrow papa? Will we not be safe then?”

 

“Who knows what tomorrow may hold my love. All we have is today so let us give thanks. Today is a grand day, for today you will be given your wand and learn to use your wings.”

 

-Excerpt from Escape to Pearl City by Tephra Miriam

This passage does a few things.

  1. It honors the overarching and sub themes.
  2. It has emotional triggers.
  3. It progresses the storyline.

Make sure to keep tabs on your characters. Know what they are doing, how they are feeling and map out anything and everything that impacts the way they shift to different settings, experiences, situations and so on. Happy writing!

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