This is my favorite part of the writing process; I love to create characters. Many writers create them in their minds, I need the visual. My process is long and tedious (to some) but it helps me with the tiny details.
I always keep a stack of old magazines handy and when I am in a lull with my writing, I go through them and look at the faces of the people portrayed in them. I look at facial features such as lines, wrinkles, crow’s feet, moles, dimples. I look at hair color, the shape of their faces, whether their ears sit high or low.
When I am intrigued, I cut out the picture from the shoulders up and save it in an envelope. It may not serve my current wip but will help in others. I have an envelope full and still adding.
In one short story I wrote years ago I described the conductor on a train: He was a portly senior whose grey strands of dried, splintered hair peeked from the rim of his cap. A small piece of lint marred the perfection of the shoulders on his conductor’s jacket, though the gold colored buttons were tarnished. He walked with a slight limp and his thick, grey mustache tickled under his nose when he smiled. He had bushy grey eyebrows that sat over kind, rheumi-blue eyes and his hand appeared dry and calloused when he reached for my ticket.
This description was not inspired by a magazine photo but by the host of a children’s program my kids watched when they were very young.
Character ideas come from all around us. If you are a people-watcher like me, you will never grow out of ideas. Sit on a park bench and notice how people walk, how they interact with one another. Go to the mall, ride public transport; these all help.
If you go on vacation to another country, listen to them as they speak in their native tongue then try to imagine them as one of your characters.
All my best,