Are You There in My Imagination?

The time is now 6 days and change before the NaNo Madness kicks off, and I woke up this morning with strange thoughts bouncing about in my head.  No, they weren’t the thoughts I have about mayonnaise and spider gags–get your mind out of the gutter, people.

The thought I had deals with the characters in my novel.  The last couple of days I’ve been trying to get my mind in the right place with how I think they should talk, act, relate to each other.  I’ve been getting a feel for the world, how the city should look (Steampunk Gothic, if that makes any sense), all that jazz.

And then I woke up thinking about one of the main characters, and realized–I have no idea what she looks like.

Now normally this would be a big deal to me.  I finished up my last story (do you actually want me to whore this story, which can now be found at Barnes & Noble as well?) and did pretty well without doing a character description.  For one of the main characters I did mention that she liked color, represented by her choice of a colorful backpack, but as far as what she looked like–nada.

There was a comment that Norman Spinrad made on Facebook the other day (and if you don’t know who Norman Spinrad is, you need to start reading), where he said he doesn’t like to describe the characteristics of main characters because he wants the reader to fill in the blanks as to what they are like.  And to a certain extent I agree.  When I’m reading I fit in my mind an image of the main characters.  Even if there is a somewhat detailed description of a character–or, in some cases, a drawing–I still tend to play Fill in the Blanks for characters and develop my own interpretation.

And then I got me a curve ball thrown my way.

I’m helping out with a project involving some fetish fiction I wrote years ago.  Not only was I paid for the right to use my stories (which, believe it or not, makes them the first sales I’ve ever made), but someone is doing artwork, a series of 5 scenes from each story.  Of course when one draws scenes from a story there’s an important component that’s required–

Hence the question, “What do you characters look like?’  For no where in any of the stories did I describe any of the main characters.  Why is that?  Because when I write I usually develop an image of how my characters look.  Yes, it’s something only I see, but it does help when I’m writing.

So cut to this morning.  Why am I feeling like I need to lock down my characters for this NaNo Novel?  Because it bugs the hell out of me that a year after I first put notes together for this story, I have no frackin’ idea what anyone looks like.

And it’s not just in the context of the story of how I could describe them, but when I try to conjure up a mental image of, say, the main character, I got nothing.

And I don’t like that feeling.

It’s not an insurmountable situation, but when I start writing I want to at least have a good idea in that musty attic I call a brain that I know what the hell my characters look like to me before I start putting them down on paper.

And there’s one other things: my primary protagonist, she wears a very particular outfit full of protective enchantments.  Again, while I have a good idea what it should look like, I have no idea what it does look like.  And that’s bugging the hell out of me.

I know, it sounds like I’m being very anal about things that some people would find a minor point in terms of creating a story, but I want to get this right.  I want the feel to be real.

And if I’m not feeling the realness in my mind, then how do I expect the reads to do that same?

So, I have my project: get some looks down and design me an outfit.  Shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

After all, I’ve seen enough Project Runway to understand what it means to make it work.