I have an excuse for still having posters of stars on my wall...no really! When I am writing a novel, I like to have pictures tacked to the bulletin board that sits on the wall in front of where I type. Sort of directed daydreaming for when my eyes wander from the screen. I have cut-out travel magazine pages for setting, that sort of thing.
I do this for my characters too. I try to find some person, whether its a star or just a super dreamy men's cologne model (you know what I'm talking about) that fits my vision of my main character's description. Intensity, wit, charm, and a certain smoldering look.
For instance, in my new WIP, The Black Adders, I had to find someone that fit the character's inability to shave regularly and yet not look like a homeless guy. He also had to be able to look you in the eye, lie charmingly, and have you not really care. For Simon Hale, my disgraced cop turned detective, I chose Eion Bailey.
He seems to have that intensity I'm looking for as well as the best smile ever...he also pulls off the lost, can't quite understand why I'm such a wreck, but I can still talk you into almost anything type of gaze that is just so inspiring.
There is no way...NO WAY, a woman can suspect this guy of foul play for very long. That he's not a stellar decision maker doesn't seem to affect him until he meets the heroine. Who has no patience for his shenanigans. And rightly so. She's smart, savvy, and on to his routine...watch out!
I try to get multiple pictures with different expressions because it really helps in the action beats of the dialogue. Does he have a crooked smile? Cleft chin? Do his eyes crinkle at the corners when he grins? Could he pull off brandishing a weapon or would he just look lame? Right handed or Southpaw?
These all add a believable layer to character descriptions. They may not all come out in your novel, but the more complete an image you have in your noggin the more fleshed-out your characters translate onto the page.
I try to do the same for the female lead. Hair and clothes are more relevant to the heroine in romances. Does she half smirk when she smiles? Is her chin a tad stubborn?
My question to you is this...are pictures helpful to you when you write? Do you have things on your bulletin board that help you see the uniqueness of your characters and setting? What gives you inspiration?