Something that I have found eternally helpful is casting my novel, as if it were a movie, before I begin writing. I am not the type to go into too much physical detail for my characters, since I don’t feel I am good at making it natural, but also to allow the reader to have a bit of imagination with how the characters might appear. I prefer vague description, focusing on character’s personalities and development.
Despite this, I always figure out which actor best represents each of the man characters. Sometimes, this helps me to narrow down how I really want a character to look, and other times it’s to help me visual scenes in my head. Character’s having faces is very helpful for that sort of thing.
My searches for the perfect casting consist of several different types of adjectives.
Sometimes, I’m looking for nothing more than an age range. For instance, I knew that Marigold and Culain that I wanted them to be in the 50s-60s age range, and so that was all I looked for. The faces that I found best represented the sort of opinionated, kindhearted, grandparents feeling were William Hurt and Alfre Woodard.
I don’t know how you might picture this couple, but having faces helped me to define their personalities even more, as actors can bring such a different take to the same character. Just compare any movie that is a remake to the original and you’ll know just what I mean. And so, searching by age has always been the most helpful for me, especially since it keeps my imagination open for how to best present a character.
Although Brie, the lead female character in my current novel, is a brunette, Teresa Palmer had the right look for her face. Although I don’t have any time to photoshop the hair of actresses right now, having a face or an idea of a face, really helped me to establish Brie quickly in my mind and be able to write her more clearly. Just goes to show, that just because you can your character to be a brunette, does not mean that your actor needs to be a brunette as well. I try not to limit my searches my hair color, even though it does help to weed through things quickly sometimes.
The hardest character to cast, though, was Kayleigh from The Keeper. I knew she was blonde, but I couldn’t land on the right face, so I have three faces for her: Elizabeth Harnois, Kristin Bell and Claire Danes. If you merged all of them into one person, she is what I imagined Kayleigh would look like. Sometimes, it’s good to not limit yourself to a single face if nothing seems to fit.
Do you cast your characters? If so, do you do so before, during or after you write?
Only 4k left for NaNoWriMo! Guess I better get to 50k and then the next step is to finish the novel!