Creating Character Boards and Why They’re Useful Visuals

In preparation for NaNoWriMo, I’m doing character profiles for the story I plan to write Dot and Al’s Paranormal Detective Agency. Character profiles are part of my plotting process. It’s where I create backstory and discover motivation long before I know what’s going to happen. I think this is key to creating compelling characters.

I like prepping this way because I’m a visual thinker. As a child, I started out storytelling drawing pictures and telling my mom what was happening in the scenes that I drew. As an adult, I dive down an internet rabbit hoe to find images that fit how I see characters in my mind. After I find a pic, I write a brief synopsis about them on the picture and try to do it in story fashion like the example below:

I want the picture itself to represent more than how the character looks, but have some of their personality or symbolism of their strengths and weaknesses. For example: I liked the picture above better than anything else I could find for a Queen of Hearts. Her eyes are closed. To me, this symbolizes she’s blind to her faults. She’s underwater, drowning in her own power. The only way the queen is going to realize this is if she opens her eyes and sees that she’s no longer the young girl being controlled but has turned into a tyrants she loathed.

After I have all the characters and their backstory synopses written up, I make a Pinterest board for the story. Usually, I end up gathering more images of possible settings that will work with the theme I want to explore (or, to be honest, places that just look really cool). During that process, the story, characters, and world begin to solidify in my mind, and I start working out the plot.

I still use the boards long past the planning stages. I like to revisit the board I created for inspiration when I get writer’s block or just to have a visual to work from as I create.

I’d love to hear from other authors about their process of creating characters in the comments.

Written material ©Tammy Deschamps 2020

Image source:

Published by TJ Deschamps

Tammy loves to build worlds with words, exploring themes the effect of diaspora on the generations born elsewhere than their ancestors with the backdrop of tech or magic and dragons (sometimes both). These stories are inspired by her own family's immigrant experience. She's queer and many of her characters fall somewhere on the LGBTQIA spectrum (though that is not the focus of her work). She's married to an engineer who dances. Together they are raising three precocious teens in the Seattle suburbs. Two of her children are neurodiverse. Her experiences have taught her much about the world, its beauties and its injustices. All of this comes through in her fiction with a healthy dose of absurd humor.

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