Today's tip was sent in by Yolanda Ridge, author of two middle grade books, Trouble in the Trees and its sequel Road Block, from Orca Book Publishers. This is Yolanda's first tip. Please give her a warm welcome and visit her site when you're done reading her fantastic tip below.
When flipping through magazine, papers, advertisements, and even the internet, I watch for people with interesting expressions, poses, outfits, or physical features. I like to cut out the pictures (or print them off the computer) and keep them in a folder. As a visual person, it really helps to have a file I can look through when I'm trying to describe a character. Instead of defaulting to the usual shoulder shrug or dimple, I can provide a lot more detail and originality when I have a picture to reference. The added bonus is that when friends or family ask if one of my characters is based on them, I can honestly say no and use the picture as proof (even though there are probably bits of their personality in their somewhere - otherwise, why would they ask?)