Paraphrasing some iconic author whose name I can’t remember speaking to the Paris Review, great characters are not photographs – they come to life from scratch.
I do use sketches, drafts of portraits from the living, which I then try to mold and dress up according to their character potential. I’ll add wrinkles to their face, try to balance make up with scars, change their names & profession until there are but only traces of the original sketch. Sometimes I’ll even mash them up together.
When this process ends, they are no longer the individual in the portrait, but what I see of their essence – or of the parts of their essence that are relevant to a story. The monarch. The wise man. The wicked witch.
It is not a choice. The characters always seem to find their own voice through the fragile pencil marks and let me know who they really are in due time. They make me suffer with impatience but I think they take their time to build up confidence. It’s one thing to introduce yourself to someone – quite a different one to let them get to truly know you.