When it comes to developing characters, I’ve got no trouble at all. They need a personality trait or a reason behind their actions and WHAM! I’ve got it figured out.
This is not the same for how my characters look, or for that matter, how anything looks. The blinking cursor mocks me when it comes time to describe a character’s hair/eye color, what they are wearing, or the layout of a house/land.
But, I’ve got a really good way of looking at something and then incorporating it into my novels. So, I use pictures, or actual items to solve my problem.
Here’s an example of a silver set that is of major importance in my novel, Along the Way Home. It originally belonged to my main character’s mother, who then passed it along to her daughter (the main character), who then takes it along with her on the Oregon Trail.
The comb/brush set are used several times during scenes where the main character cannot get all the snarls out of her filthy hair, and the jewelry box with the red velvet lining is mentioned quite a few times as well.
When I wrote certain scenes, I wanted to be able to portray the weight of the brush in my character’s hand as she picked it up from the dresser, to see for myself how long it would take for the brush to work through a snarl (hint…it took a LONG time), and feel the lining of the jewelry against my fingertips. I really wanted my descriptions to be authentic.
But I had one big problem…
All I ever had growing up was the “ballerina spins to music when the lid is raised” variety of jewelry boxes, so I had no clue of what an actual silver set would be like, look like, or feel like.
So I bought a set off Craigslist, brought it home, and thoroughly checked it out. Now I know for certain that the entire set will in fact fit nicely into a saddlebag so I know that my main character will be able to take it along on the trail.
And my daughter gets a really nice silver set when she’s older.
How do you authenticate items portrayed in your writing?