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.
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.