Part 1 of a Series on my Writing Process
Disclaimer: This is not a how-to guide, nor am I claiming myself to be an expert on writing. I am merely sharing some techniques that I employ in the process of developing characters, establishing tone, and maintaining the flow of a piece. I’m also not claiming to have invented these, at all.
It’s not required, but feel free to let me know if you tried any of these ideas and if/how they worked for you. I’d love hearing about it!
If you have visited blog sites, you may have come across groupings of images and (sometimes) text, meant to evoke the “feel” of a character, original or otherwise. The way I think of it is, say you could not show someone a picture that you have of the character, and you could not describe them verbally, you would use one of these to at least ensure that the person has an understanding of what makes your character “tick”.
Essentially, they are a collage of pre-existing images, sometimes edited, that can describe a character that you have created.
When I sit down to plot characters for a piece, I consider a lot of things. Each character has a different name, and appearance, yes, but each one has different ambience, mannerisms, and yes, aesthetic. These boards can help me establish that aesthetic so I can use proper words to describe them in the piece, and keep them in character throughout.
Aesthetic Board for Seire, the Dawn Prince
Seire is the first “demon” that the protagonist, Celeste Jennings, encounters in the first part of the yet to be named “Demon-verse” compendium. When creating him, I wanted something that was strange and unusual, but also welcoming and familiar, as he is one of the most helpful characters in the work. The color pink is predominant because of its warmth and association with gentleness. This aesthetic board is also very textural; the glossy lips and jelly, the soft feather, the rough geode. All of these are aspects of the character’s appearance, without being blatant about the fact that he is rather monstrous looking. “Have Courage and Be Kind” is essential to the character’s moral fiber, as one of the most unambiguously good figures in this work.
Aesthetic Board for Venaesectio Adhibendus
In stark contrast is the mysterious, strange, and grisly Fleshmender, Venaesectio Adhibendus, also from the “Demon-Verse”. This character’s morals are beyond human comprehension, as, unlike the demons that he repairs, he isn’t human at all, and never was, even in thought. Faded colors of browns, grays, and drying blood evoke his profession as the surgeon who pieces together the creations of The Powers that Be, but also create a sense of discontent. He isn’t pleasant to look at. He is even less pleasant if you wind up on his table several times. The “strangeness and beauty” applies to every creation of the Powers that Be, as well as the entities themselves, and pervades the work.
Aesthetic Board for Damien
Taking a break from the “Demon-Verse”, and exploring the tale of a young woman named Ruth as a world of monsters is laid bare before her after a ritual gone wrong is this board for the very first entity she encounters. Damien is gothic horror embodied; elegant, monochromatic, and grim; a tall, skeletal man surrounded by a flurry of black wings as he disappears without trace into the night as a flock of ravens. As such, I stuck with black and white for this image. Foreboding and mysterious, the quote is from Ruth’s perspective rather than his own. What will she discover about him as her journey progresses? Is there a heart hidden in the chill of death?
Aesthetic Board for Ulrich Haupt
The final board is for the love interest of my supernatural romance piece, Head over Heels. The color red is highly prominent here, in spite of not being part of Ulrich’s color scheme due to its association not only with love, but also with blood. I especially like the contrast between the horse and the motorbike; the uniform and the leather jacket; modern day and the 1700s. Ulrich is a complicated character, being shy, but lonely; angry, but gentle. The quote I included is really an underlying theme of many “monster romances”, and I quite like it. Granted, other authors and screenwriters have given him quite the…ahem…reputation over the years, but the Headless Horseman has been interesting to write as a romantic lead.
Tips for Aesthetic Boards
- Try to refrain from using images of famous people/characters. It might be tempting, but it really won’t help you in the long run.
- Color is as important as the images themselves. What colors do you associate with your characters? What mood do these colors evoke?
- Also consider textures (fabric types, feathers, leather, etc.), environments, and any equipment that your character carries.
- Quotes or small blurbs can be helpful, perhaps something that a character lives by, or a way someone could describe them.
NEXT: Writing playlists: How Music can Influence Your Work