I searched for photos I could use to remind me of what my main characters are sorta like. I see Ari as a bit older than the woman in the photo, with a few more pounds on her, and with a purple streak in her black hair, genetically chosen by her parents in utero. Dr. Otts--handsome son of a gun, ain’t he?—is perpetually young looking, in the way of many men. His age is indeterminate.
Knowing what they look like allows me to picture them, movie style, in my scenes. I can observe how Ari moves her arms, what she does with her hands when nervous, and how she sits at her desk. Of course, I could describe all that, and many do, without having a picture of her. But I’ve found it’s so much easier to move my characters around if I know what they look like.
Also, while seeing photos of Ari and Robb, I can better imagine how they’d look embracing on the sofa (if they do). Or where her secret tattoo is that Robb discovers (if he does). Or where he must go every night at precisely 11 o’clock. What part of his body does he shield from Ari and why?
What secrets does each conceal and why? They look open and honest and forthcoming. But everyone has secrets. Robb’s will be devastating, initially, to Ari. Her secrets will not bother him, but they bother her and interfere with creating bonds with others. I can see that in her face. Guarded. Cautious. All while appearing to be a free spirit. Appearances can be—and often are—deceiving.
Since setting, in scifi, is often cast in a character role, visualizing Mars is a huge deal for me. I have a map pinned to my office wall, and a globe sits next to my computer. I use these visuals to imagine Ari’s travels around Mars, the three colony sites, and the challenges the Mars geology poses.