Character paper dolls for promotional use by Mary Reed

A thought came to me recently when looking at the vibrant colouring of the garments and personal adornments shown in two mosaics among those decorating the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy.

This particular pair of mosaics depict the sixth century court in Constantinople, the setting for most of our John, Lord Chamberlain, mysteries. Thus the onlooker sees a crowned Justinian, dressed in imperial purple, his three-pendant cloak clasp resembling a large flower. He takes centre stage, flanked by representatives of church, state, and the military. Is it true to life? Well, a close scrutiny does show distinct traces of a five-o’-clock shadow.

In a separate mosaic, Empress Thedora wears a more elaborate crown than Justinian. Also in centre stage, her tunic features an elaborately embroidered hem and she wears a gem-encrusted collar as well as a necklace and earrings. Her face looks drawn, and it’s been speculated shows the first signs of the illness, commonly thought to be cancer, that would ultimately kill her. Richly attired female attendants and a couple of servants round out the picture.

Justinian close-up

Thedora close-up

Justinian’s and attendent

Theodora and attendants

Well then, you may ask, what was the thought triggered by these beautiful mosaics?

Paper dolls. More precisely, character paper dolls for promotional use.


What a brilliant idea, the thought modestly continued. An author’s website has only to provide a page or two offering drawings of their characters and appropriate clothing, jewelry, and accessories and the rest is up to those who love their books.

It’s worth noting colouring books for adults are extremely popular at present – last year 14 million of them were sold. Authors therefore might consider running off character and accessories pages and wield their staplers to create colouring books as a giveaway for freeby tables at conventions and other mystery-related gatherings.

But what if, like me, an author can’t draw for toffee? Not to worry. This Wikihow article giving step by step instructions on creating paper dolls suggests tracing figures in magazines or books:

and also helpfully includes a link to downloadable figure templates. Their poses could be altered as necessary, and here I am thinking particularly of the position of the arms.

Once these paper dolls are created, the rest is up to your readers, may their colouring pencil sharpeners never get blunt!


Mary Reed & Eric Mayer co-write the Lord Chamberlain mystery series, set in and around the sixth century Constantinople court of Emperor Justinian I. The most recent title published was Murder In Megara and they are currently working on the next entry in the series. They also write the Grace Baxter World War Two mystery series under the pen name of Eric Reed.


Our website:

Our blog:

Buy links:

Murder In Megara

Ruined Stones

3 thoughts on “Character paper dolls for promotional use by Mary Reed

  1. radine says:

    Certainly an interesting idea with good possibilities, esp. for historical and other unique characters in novels. Not sure present day “ordinary” book characters would generate as much interest. But this also brings up a thought train about what else that’s fairly easy and cheap would work as a general give-away for the rest of us. I give packets of Ozarks Rock Garden “Seeds.” (Honestly–tiny bits of gravel I scraped up on the roadside at Spring Hollow.) Recently a recipient e-mailed me the day after he bought a book and received seeds from me thanking me and saying his seeds were already growing well. Many times people think they are real seeds, at least at first. They are packaged in small clear plastic bags with a label on the front. If they haven’t caught on to the joke (the Ozarks are notoriously rocky) I usually clue them in before they leave.

  2. What an imaginative idea. Too much work for me–I’m better with words than images, but I can see the buzz it could create.

  3. Mary R says:

    A word of thanks to giving this wild idea house room, Patti! Hope it will be useful to both authors and readers.

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