I've always had a pretty visually-focused imagination, but when it comes to designing and seeing characters in my head, I seem to have a--pardon the pun--bit of a blind spot. I can imagine what I want them to look like well enough, but then when I start writing, they turn into kind of human-shaped (generally) blobs with featureless faces until I describe them again. It's a weird phenomenon.
Thanks to this bizarre function of my brain, I also have a hard time picturing clothing. Normally, this isn't a problem because no one really cares that much what your characters are wearing unless it's important to a personality quirk or plot point. But in this magical girl story I'm working on, everyone has their 'superhero' costume that needs to be described after their transformations. I tried to visualize something satirically anime without making it a direct knockoff of Sailor Moon's costume (because, you know, that's where my brain is), but realized I couldn't figure out what I wanted to do with it.
So I turned to the internet. I originally wanted to just scroll through some fanart and more obscure magical girl anime to try and get some other ideas. But the problem with that (for me) is that then I started picturing things that belonged to other people instead of coming up with my own. When you're just looking for people who look like your character and are using actors or stock photos as what's called a face-claim for your character, that's not as much of a problem. But I didn't want to accidentally steal someone else's design!
I closed DeviantArt and Tumblr and somehow remembered about those doll makers that were super popular a couple years ago. Totally worth spending a full day using two of them to design costumes for my whole character squad.
How do you design your characters visually? Do you use real people or art as face claims? Have you ever used a doll maker or commissioned artwork to help you really see the people you're writing about? Do you have other ideas I could try?
Emer has spent the last week attempting not to melt, so do forgive her maybe not-totally-coherent post. She's looking forward to fall already, and might be a little too excited about pumpkin-flavored everything coming back.