Where do writers find their characters, how do they decide what they look like? Every writer probably does it differently… here is something one writer does; Lois Elsden explains:
The word ‘expression’ has several different meanings including –
- The action of making known one’s thoughts or feelings
- The conveying of feeling in a work of art or in the performance of a piece of music
- A look on someone’s face that conveys a particular emotion
- A word or phrase, especially an idiomatic one, used to convey an idea
- A collection of symbols that jointly express a quantity
- The production of something by pressing it out.
- The appearance in a phenotype of a characteristic or effect attributed to a particular gene
However the meaning I’m using is the expression on someone’s face, and ‘borrowing’ an expression is what I sometimes do as a writer! I don’t just mean the way someone has arranged their features, eyebrows down, eyebrows raised, quirky eyebrows, surprised eyebrows etc, or the type of smile, or what someone is doing with their eyes – although that is all part of the way a writer observes things and uses them.
I confess, I borrow whole faces – for example in my Radwinter stories, the inspiration for my characters. appearances came from:
- Thomas – a Danish actor
- Marcus – a well-known chef and restaurateur
- Paul – a TV personality and baker
- John – someone who works in my local bookshop
- Kylie – a contestant on a cookery show
- Justyna – someone who I used to teach English
- Kim – a flower shop owner
It’s just their faces, you understand, which were the original inspiration, but those faces have changed as the characters develop in my stories.
To get back to expressions – sometimes I observe an expression on someone’s face which seems unexpected… unexpected in the situation or circumstances, unexpected because it seems different from their usual character, unexpected because it was private and I’ve glimpsed it accidentally… This makes me sound like a weird stalker type – honestly I’m not! I’ll give you some examples –
- a happy family occasion, but a couple look tense and nervous – they assume jolly expressions when anyone else talks to them, but sitting at their table as the celebration goes on around them, their faces assume a different look
- someone shakes hands with an acquaintance, a serious but pleasant greeting seems to follow; however as they turn away a look of malicious glee flashes across their face, just for a second
- someone in a bar, comfortable, at ease, leaning on the counter and talking to friends, totally relaxed, laughing, joking, chatting; ever so often, when the conversation is with others, or while waiting for service, their gaze is directed into the other bar at two men talking together… then the face becomes still, the humour gone, a very focused look comes over their face
- there’s someone in a café, just having a coffee and a sandwich, a pleasant, amiable look on their face as they look at their phone, glance through the menu or round the room at the pictures and photos on the walls. Their gaze comes to rest on something, whether it’s actually being looked at or another thought has come into their head, nothing to do with anything will never be known, but a surprised look seems to come over their features – they have thought of something, remembered something, realised something… so deep in thought that when someone comes to clear the table they hardly notice
- the ceramic plaque in my featured image, what is the character looking at, is his mouth dropped open in surprise (pleasant or unpleasant) amazement, has he just thought of something or is he looking at something, is it a malign or benign expression?
These are just a few examples – it isn’t the person as such, or what they look like, it’s that look on their face, that expression which triggers some inspiration for me!
If you want to read about Thomas and his brothers, family and friends, the you can find my books on Amazon; the first in the Radwinter series has just been published as a paperback: