I participated in the Pitchwars PWPoeprompts this month on Twitter, and two of the prompts included something called ‘Character Aesthetics.’ I’d seen people making these ‘aesthetics,’ but they hadn’t made a lick of sense to me. In order to fulfill the prompt, I decided to do some research and discover how to make a character aesthetic.
What Is an Aesthetic
An aesthetic is a collection of pictures that represents your character, story, or something else in a way that isn’t necessarily straightforward. It is about ‘feeling’ rather than ‘being,’ about representing intangible traits as well as physical attributes.
Below are a couple of the aesthetics I made for the Twitter prompts:
The one on the left, the one that includes all the natural images and green, is for Trust III. He’s a giant tree that rules a large swath of land on the planet Tsanur, and he believes – somewhat truthfully – that humans are poisonous. On the right is the aesthetic for my main character, Russus, who commands a human spaceship and is tough as nails.
Each image was chosen because it represented something about the character, some of which shows up in the story (for instance, Trust loves to dust his twigs in gold). Some writers claim that this exercise helps them get into their characters’ heads.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that aesthetics seem to be dripping with angst. When you sprinkle in a bit of angst, even to characters like Trust or Russus who really don’t need any, they feel more like ‘aesthetics’ as they appear on the interwebs.
Finding and Saving Pictures
I tried to use pictures from sites without royalties, but a few (like that spaceship) had to come from Pinterest where rights management isn’t very well done. I strongly suggest using free images if you can, especially if you want to publish the aesthetic.
You want to worry about size inasmuch as you don’t want to have extremely different image quality in your frames. Try to choose photos of a similar size to each other.
Building Your Aesthetic
There are programs out there to build your aesthetics, but most of them have sketchy origins or are paid services. I found it better to put forth a little effort to get great results and save your computer from a virus.
If you use GIMP, you can use the select tool to make an aesthetic grid and insert your pictures:
- Use the rectangular select tool to create white lines.
- Make four horizontal and four vertical lines using copy-paste, then merge the layers.
- After that, you just plop in your pictures, clip and resize them as you would, and rearrange the layers so your grid is on top
- Flatten the image or export to .png to finish off your aesthetic!
If you would like to use my template, here is a .png (image type that saves transparent backgrounds) of the white grid I used for the Trust and Russus aesthetics. It looks empty here, but trust me – there are lines.
If you use my template or instructions to make an aesthetic, I’d love to see it! Tweet it and tag me, @hrrgorman, or tag this post on your WordPress so I can check it out.