Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Web As Central Casting

Artists commission models to gain accuracy in depictions of the human form.

It struck me, that I don't know that writers do that sort of thing as often. More frequently writers rely on experience and memory for the strokes that paint word characters, and much of the greatness indeed comes from within the writer.

Yet, the web offers some interesting tools for which I believe scribes can sometimes draw benefit. Don't overlook the benefits to be found at your fingertips, even though I mentioned recently on Charles' blog that I often unplug the web to remove its distractions and potential for making me hover over minute details.

Singles sites aren't just for the lovelorn.
The notion of browsing singles sites arose at a web design convention I attended. Web and marketing strategists--just like fiction writers--seek to devise realistic imaginary characters. They're called personas and they're developed to help envision the members of a website's target audience.

Susan is a 31-year-old nurse interested in buying her first home. When she comes to a mortgage site she wants to learn about...

Where do you have a lot of people of various ages telling you about themselves? Singles sites are one starting point.

Sure they have plenty of people who help you feel better about how you look, but they're ripe with profiles that list hobbies and interests, professions and passtimes. Indeed many points are fictional to begin with in those profiles, but they're certainly interesting places to visit for tidbits about real humans.

Get past "outdoor type" and "outgoing" and there are frequently elements to jog the imagination.

Model behavior
Need to jump start your imagination as far as physical descriptions for your characters? Stock photography sites are a great place to visit for perusing varieties of hairstyles, facial hair and fashion choices. You may find the perfect zippered hoody to break your sinister, corner lurker out of stock character confines or remember some tic or trait from someone you once knew that fits perfectly.

Web browsing doesn't substitute for observing real world behavior and observing the real world in general, but it can help sometimes with highlights and shadows.

7 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

These are some great ideas. I've used the net to help me with names at times, looking at historical stuff or name lists, but the idea of looking for how people describe themselves never occurred to me. I'm going to riff off this on my blog.

Shauna Roberts said...

Two great ideas! At a friend's suggestion, I've tried modeling sites to look for physical representation of my characters, but they weren't very useful because everyone was tall, thin, young, and good-looking, and most were white. Your ideas should yield a wider range of realistic looking people.

Erik Donald France said...

Excellent! Right on ~~ very cool!

Sidney said...

Thanks, folks. Shauna, hope the thoughts are helpful

Tammi said...

Wow, Sid! That's a great idea. That would make for a wonderful writing prompt.

Forums are nice, too. I like to browse through them for story ideas especially the "I hate my inlaws" type forums. Okay, they're just fun to read.

avery said...

I've trolled the singles sites looking for inspiration. You're right. It's a very good way to get inspired. Even googling things like, "Punk girl," will turn up loads of great images. Just be sure to have the safe search on if you don't want to see too much...

Nice post.

Sidney said...

Thanks everyone, I hope it is really useful

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