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They say that a picture is a thousand words but don’t discount those words. For one thing, one thousand words is a flash fiction story! An artist paints with oils, watercolours etc., whereas a writer paints with words. And those words can make a powerful impact on readers.
By inventing characters readers can identify with, we can use those characters to convey deep truths in what we get them to say and how we get them to act. We can also use those characters as representations. Allegorical tales are the classical example of this.