Sunday, November 30, 2008

'Casting' Characters, Character Propriety, etc.

Ok, this makes me really weird, I know it does, but consider the source.

One of the best things I've ever done for my writing has been to "cast" my characters. By that I mean that I actually find photographs of people that I think fit my character, and that photograph "becomes" my character. Sometimes, I use celebrities. Sometimes, random pictures of random people that I found by Googling random words and phrases. I keep a file of about 700 pictures (which is still growing...rapidly), and any major/main characters in my stories have to have a picture assigned. Even some of the minor characters, depending on how ambitious I am.

The thing is, I really don't describe my characters' physical appearances. In "Camera Shy", Simone is barely described at all aside from one reference to eye color. Unless a specific detail is important (a tattoo, unusual eye color, a scar, etc.), I don't like harping on physical details, because I know that the reader will come up with a picture in their head anyway. No, the picture is for my own reference. Often, the picture tells me a great deal about my own character: their expressions, their mannerisms, etc. Body language speaks volumes, even in photos. And strangely enough, many of my characters haven't really "come to life" until I came up with a picture.

Take these two examples: (random pics off Google, no copyright violations intended)

Both redheaded females, but very different women. A character based on the first picture would be dramatically different than one based on the second. I would write the first woman with very different mannerisms, personality, etc., than the second.

Another example would be Jason in "Camera Shy": I chose his picture because I wanted to base him on a certain celebrity (personal fan fic? Never...). Once I'd picked the picture, that picture was Jason. Jason came to life, and his appearance, personality, etc., were based on what I saw in that picture. Then I started outlining. Immediately, several things fell into place, both for his personality and for the story, most importantly being the fact that he had a camera in his hand in the picture. So I made Jason a photographer, and cameras - especially Simone's camera shyness - became very important pieces of the plot. Without that picture, the camera shyness theme would never have come into play.

Like I said, I know, it makes me weird. What can I say? Bottom line is, it has improved my writing and my characterization, and as far as I'm concerned, that's the important thing. If you have to perform voodoo rituals and conjure up characters that way, go for it. I'll stick to pulling up pictures on Google and "assigning" them. It's not as messy and doesn't disturb the neighbors.

And, if I wasn't weird enough about this, I'm not the only one who uses real people as a basis for characters...but since the divine Ms Papercuts and I both tend to pull from the same pool of celebrities for a lot of our characters, we have actually come to a bizarre agreement not to use the same "bloke" for main characters at the same time. Meaning, I don't use *mumblemumble* until she's through with him, and she doesn't use *mumblemumble* until I'm through with him (which, actually, I am, now that "Camera Shy" is done). It makes sense, though, since we beta each other's work all the time: nothing is quite as strange as seeing your own main character traipsing through someone else's work in progress.

So anyway, there's my strange little OCD quirk for writing. (One of many, obviously) I do find that my stories tend to fall together remarkably quickly once I know "who" the players are. Whatever works, right?


  1. I'm nearly done with *mumblemumble* - I aim to have this first draft done by next Sunday night, so as from the 9th of December, he's all yours!

    After that I'll be using no-one in particular as I wrap up my YA manuscript.

    In January I plan to use *muttermutter* and *whisperwhisper* for my unfinished 1st draft of *hiss*.

    That is all.

  2. Wait. I meant 8th. I think. Dates mixed up. You'll know when he's yours as I'll email you the draft anyway! :D

  3. Smexcellent. *hitlerface*

    I'll be swiping *mumblemumble* from you as soon as you're through with him, and I wouldn't mind borrowing *muttermumble* when you're done with her. You're also holding two of my male MC's hostage, so hurry the *mumblemumble* up. *hitlerface*

  4. Those two male characters won't be needed until January, so you can play with them in December, although I'll want them back so I can write the remaining 50k or so of *hiss*.

    I'll only be holding *muttermumble* for the next week, then she's all yours, but in the meantime why don't you use *whisperhiss*?

  5. Ooo, I suppose I could use *whisperhiss*, but *muttermumble* really fits this character so much better.

    Stop hogging all the badass characters. *hitlerface*

  6. I'll get to work and in a week you can have *mumblemumble* back for your previous WIP, *whispersmutter* I PROMISE!!!