I’ve read about authors whom ‘permanently borrow’ features of celebrities, or people they know; the set of eyes of one, the curved lips of another. Others have the amazing abilities to conjure up their main characters’ appearances from scratch, therefore creating an image unique to their own specification.
I’ve dabbled in both of these techniques, and somewhere in between. In Eleanor (I & II), it draws comparison as to how Eleanor’s appearance and the way she dresses differ from those she encounter at the Palace. Subsequently, it highlights why Your Highness Prince Patrick is drawn to her, a commoner from a nearby village.
Whilst I was writing Eleanor I, I can’t help but notice that the storyline is very much inspired by the movie Ever After. So naturally, when I start drawing the image of Eleanor, I based it on Ever After’s main character, Danielle, played by Drew Barrymore.
Elizabeth Hartley from Peeling Layers (and subsequent books – II, III and IV) was an amalgamation of a few people I know, yours truly included. To a certain degree, the whole story about Elizabeth Hartley stemmed from my own experiences being born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, as someone from a Chinese background; a minority in said part of the country. I have experienced first-hand the prejudice some native Indonesians had on me simply based on the colour of my skin and the shape of my eyes. Fast forward to my career in an education setting, I have had to sympathise with parents ringing in, telling me about the various ways their child had been mistreated or bullied just because they look different to the large Anglo-Saxon population of this country. Closer to home, I have a niece and nephew who are products of a mixed-marriage; their Asian heritage showing dominance over their Caucasian genes I have sometimes worried whether they would ‘fit in’ at school (which thankfully, they do).
Factoring all these little known facts, I’ve modelled Elizabeth Hartley from the Asian-mixed-Caucasians I know. I’ve given her the ‘Chinese’, slanted eyes and the high cheekbones, with the lighter complexion and not-so-full lips inherited from her Caucasian father. When I think of Elizabeth Hartley, I think of someone resembling Kristin Kreuk.
What about you? What technique(s) have you applied to build your characters’ physical traits? Do you have a tried-and-true method not described above? Leave your comments below – would love to hear more of your thoughts and expertise on this particular topic.