Do you visualize characters?

I’ve noticed that many reviews for books included pictures of what the reader imagined the characters to look like. Because after all, besides general details such as hair and eye colour, indication of build, and other obvious characteristics (freckles, beer belly etc…), it is difficult to describe someone to reach a consensus. Try and write about a blue-eyed, dark haired, slender woman, and some will visualize Katy Perry, others Zooey Deschanel, Megan Fox, or that unknown woman on the internet. Those women don’t look alike in real life. In books, they can be one and the same.

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That unknown woman 

With some books, it’s fun to associate a true picture to a written face. It helps with making a character feel more realistic and within reach. I’ve found myself both as author and reader, scouring the internet to find the perfect representation of those characters in my head. Scrolling through hundreds of faces, until I found the one that fits. It’s strangely satisfying.

But because we all have our personal picture of what a character should look like, when a book is turned into a movie, the chosen actors rarely fit the bill. Sometimes, we can’t quite put our finger on why, but we know the face isn’t right, and it can spoil the entire film. Hence why I think people are usually disappointed by a book made into a movie, even if the plot has been respected.

giphy (1)

And then there are books, most books in fact, where I don’t really visualize anyone. I know that said character has curly black hair and is thirty, but the picture remains blurry. It doesn’t spoil the story at all. Even when a character has a distinctive feature such as a stutter or a missing arm, I will “forget” about it. Which proves to me that I don’t need a real picture to appreciate a book.

In this day and age where internet is easily accessible and where faces from all around the world can be found at the touch of a button, it spurs on a lot of readers to search for the perfect real-life portrait of their favourite characters. But at the end of the day, I think it’s all just a bit of fun.

Do you look for pictures that fit your favourite literary hero/heroine? Or maybe your imagination is detailed enough to satisfy you? Or do characters remain blurry in your mind?

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10 thoughts on “Do you visualize characters?

  1. I do visualize characters in my head, but it’s more vague and I can’t exactly describe what they look like, but if they make a movie I can say that the person they picked doesn’t fit the image in my head, which is why I dislike watching movies. They ruin my own image of the character.

    In some cases the cover can help, but not always. For example my image for Tessa in Forever and One Week fits the cover, but Logan looks entirely different. I don’t personally look for pictures that fit the image in my head, but it’s fun to see which images others will find sometimes.

    Also sometimes I ignore descriptions as well, either because I already had a different image in my head before I read that or for some reason that description doesn’t get used when i create my image. And most of the time my image of a character is quite blurry.

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    1. How funny that your image of Logan didn’t fit the one from my cover, because he didn’t fit for me either lol. I used a pic I found on the internet for him, which inspired me to write his character. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use this unknown man for a cover. What a shame, eh? I did try to find a pic cover where at least one of the characters fit. Tessa was perfect to me too.
      The movie Shutter Island was so far from what I had in my head, I was utterly disappointed, even more because the book is one of my favourites (and I don’t have a lot of favourite books). I think it’s always better to watch a movie first, then read the book next. There’s less of a risk to be disappointed.

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  2. Most of the time, all characters are blurry, but I know what they don’t look like! I have trouble visualising descriptions, don’t know why. Maybe I was traumatised when I read Lord of the Rings, and Tolkien saw fit to tell me that hobbits don’t have beards – 100 or so pages in!

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    1. I’ve been known to imagine a character looking completely different from his/her description, simply because the name reminds me of someone I know lol. I never read LOTR but I loved the movies.

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  3. I never picture a leading lady because I generally slot myself as the heroine. This means I generally skim over the description of her too. Now, when it comes to the men in my life (wink, wink) I generally stick to the same guys over and over again. David Gandy for dark hair, Chris Hemsworth for blond and Michael Fassbender for a ginger. There are a couple of others I might think of in passing to fill in a slot like Ian Somerhalder or Alexander Skarsgard, but it normally depends who pops into my mind. Now, I might mention it in passing in my review but I don’t add images to my reviews except for the book cover in my header.

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    1. I tend to do the same, strangely: I can picture a man easier than I can picture a woman. Or rather, the woman will remain blurry, unless she’s one of my own characters 🙂
      And sometimes, the character I imagine doesn’t fit the description given by the author!

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