Creating characters is one of the most important parts of writing, but I don't think you can do it well unless you can really see the person.
And that's the whole picture - from hair to lips, midriff, hands, pants and shoes, even the way they walk.
Happily, I've developed a simple trick for making sure I have a comprehensive vision of one of my imaginary friends.
I always base their appearance on someone I know.
Now, I know the way we see people can vary wildly -
This caricature that was drawn for an article, for example; I'm not at all convinced it captures my classical good looks (hmmmm) etc..
However, back to my way of seeing characters, and they just have to be a person you've had a chance to study, even if - and this is the fun part - they have no idea of that.
The policeman in my tvdetective books is based on a real life cop. He's tall, lean, very smart, clean shaven and a little tempramental and I still regularly see him to this day.
The bully in my new book is based on a girl I knew (and avoided) at school. She had horrible, pitted beetroot skin, stank of fags, wore a permanent snarl, talked with her fists, and radiated darkness.
My favourite piece of character theft of the moment is a security guard in my seventh novel, The Dark Horizon. He's a squat bulldog of a man, eyes too close together, an utterly unwarranted swagger, and a general sneer for life.
He's based on a chap at my gym, which always makes me smile every time I see him (and that only seems to make him sneer all the more, oddly enough.)
On a professional level, these visions help me to build living characters. But I must confess... sadly...
That on a personal level, I really enjoy the petty revenge.
There's just one more thing to mention for this ramble, and it's a warning from the writer's omerta -
If you should choose to use my characterisation trick, then never, ever let on who you're thinking about.
It could mean a law suit, or, if you're writing about one of the nasties, something far worse!