In life, we all like to put names to faces and faces to names. There is more of a feeling of personal connection when we speak to someone either by telephone or face-to-face, and in our minds, their facial features mix with their name. It is automatic. Think to yourself a name of someone that you know, and in your head, you don’t see letters spelling out their name, or a blurry image muddying up their looks. You can vividly picture their entire face, probably all the way down to their unique smile.
You would think that would also be true for me, as a fiction writer, when my named human characters develop faces. You might be surprised to learn that, in both of my novels, A Passion for Prying and Murder Can Be Messy, the reader meets and mingles with many people, yet there isn’t one named character in my books whose facial features come together so distinctively in my visual head that I actually see a complete, put together face. After writing both of my books, if I had to draw a detailed face of a person who precisely mirrors a character from my novels, I wouldn’t be able to do it.
As I write, relating to my characters, the names have no concrete faces!
When penning my books, I don’t generally use my imagination to apply colors and features to my characters. Instead, the people who are telling their own story through my writing tell me what they look like. When a new character joins the plot, my fingers can be moving at a speed of what literally feels like a mile a minute, and I don’t stop writing to take the time to decide what color of hair they have, eye color, distinct or interesting facial features, full lips or thin lips, etc. The new person entering the story tells me what they look like as my fingers stay in motion, never missing a beat. Until the character comes to life on the written page, what they end up looking like can be as surprising to me as seeing a baby being born. What is on everyone’s mind at that precise moment? What does he or she look like?
As an author, this makes my writing much more fun and exciting to me, as I am merely the vessel that my characters use to tell their story.
The cover of my first novel, A Passion for Prying, was sketched and drawn by Dan Drewes from AuthorHouse (the publisher). The female blond on the cover is one person’s vision of what Natalie North, the main character and a stylish, first-rate private investigator, would look like if she stepped off of the written page and came to life. You may find it interesting to know that Dan and I never sat down in person, face-to-face, during the drawing of the cover. I simply gave Dan a description of Natalie North, through telephone and email conversations, and from my words, Dan drew a concrete, vivid image of Natalie. The beautiful investigator that you see on the cover is Dan’s perception of what Natalie looks like, based on the descriptive features that he had been told from how Natalie is described in the book.
Even now, as I continue to write Natalie’s dramatic, dangerous and daring, yet fun escapades, as my fingers are moving fast and furiously, I don’t ever see a vivid image of Natalie’s face in my mind. Not even the Natalie drawn on the cover of A Passion for Prying. Natalie’s face remains to me a range of features and colors. I know that her eyes are cocoa brown, her hair is golden blond, her lips are plump and her features are embedded in alabaster skin. Yet, as I spend my days with Natalie, her complete face blended together remains a mystery to me, and I could never narrow her down to one particular face that I could point out in a crowd.
Even I can’t explain how I can spend hours and hours with my beloved characters, allow them to tell their crazy, fun, heartwarming tales through their words on paper, and never imagine in my own mind their concrete face, as every descriptive detail explaining their looks follows them through every adventure that they take. And I prefer it that way!
Natalie to you may look completely different than what Natalie looks like to Dan. Jett Jaso, the gorgeous Hollywood hunky actor, may appeal to one reader, yet not quite hold up in the killer looks department in another reader’s mind. And that is the thrill of the written word and the wonder of the imagination! You are free to interject whatever look suits you and draw your own face with the name.
As for me, I find it perfectly intriguing that as far as my precious people go, their names have no absolute faces!