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Old 11-16-2012, 07:05 AM   #1
LJ Hall
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'Casting' your novel

I was reading the pantsing versus outlining thread and thinking about my own technique, and I realized that one thing I do whether I'm pantsing or outlining is that I cast my major roles.

There's a folder with all my word files, strictly pictures of actors and actresses that I've picked out to represent characters in my mind. Everyone from famous Oscar winners to people from stock photos or hair-style websites. (I tend to stay away from really evocative performers, like, say, Robert Downey Jr, who bring their own personalities with them.) It simply helps that person stay vivid in my head.

Do other people do this? Would you consider it a cheat? The thing I like most about it is that you can describe that specific person if you want, in immense physical detail, and your readers would still rarely actually picture the actor you're describing. Unless they cast books as they read them, which is probably a thing.
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Old 11-16-2012, 07:10 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LJ Hall View Post
I was reading the pantsing versus outlining thread and thinking about my own technique, and I realized that one thing I do whether I'm pantsing or outlining is that I cast my major roles.

There's a folder with all my word files, strictly pictures of actors and actresses that I've picked out to represent characters in my mind. Everyone from famous Oscar winners to people from stock photos or hair-style websites. (I tend to stay away from really evocative performers, like, say, Robert Downey Jr, who bring their own personalities with them.) It simply helps that person stay vivid in my head.

Do other people do this? Would you consider it a cheat? The thing I like most about it is that you can describe that specific person if you want, in immense physical detail, and your readers would still rarely actually picture the actor you're describing. Unless they cast books as they read them, which is probably a thing.
It's not cheating. I don't do it for really no good reason other than I don't. If it helps you build better character then do it. Nothing wrong about it.
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Old 11-16-2012, 07:17 AM   #3
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I do something similar for both looks and personality. Though, as words go by, the character make up a mind of their own and steer away from what I bookmarked them under.
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Old 11-16-2012, 07:21 AM   #4
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I do that! Thought I was the only one. :-) I also tend to pick "minor" stars without strong personalities. For me, it helps to have a face in mind, especially in the beginning. My current heroine looks like the actress who played the lead on the TV show "In Plain Sight." :-)
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Old 11-16-2012, 07:37 AM   #5
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It's not cheating at all, but I don't do it myself. The people I picture when I'm writing don't look much like actors, they tend to look more like people I know.
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Old 11-16-2012, 08:49 AM   #6
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I've never done that. Maybe I'll have to give it a try. If it works for you, go for it.
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Old 11-16-2012, 09:04 AM   #7
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I do that, but not all of my characters. Just the mob leaders, being Jack Nicholson, Robert de Niro, Denzel Washington, and of course, Al Pacino.

Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, and Frank Vincent are very soon to be in too.
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Old 11-16-2012, 09:29 AM   #8
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I have to admit, I do it for some of my characters' looks, but not personalities. For my current MS, however, I've nearly torn my hair out trying to find a picture of someone to 'cast' for her. I think I just made up this picture in my head, and no one can compare to it. I have found several different people who could combine to make her, though.
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Old 11-16-2012, 03:05 PM   #9
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For my current MS, however, I've nearly torn my hair out trying to find a picture of someone to 'cast' for her. I think I just made up this picture in my head, and no one can compare to it.
Ditto. I have most of the other characters 'cast' in my head (in fact the hero was based on a particular actor/film role from the get go) but for the female MC, no one seems to fit. Or for the antag, now I think of it. These are probably the characters I've found it the most difficult to 'get into', so maybe the two things are related...?
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Old 11-16-2012, 03:30 PM   #10
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I wouldn't consider it a cheat. Occasionally, I have tried to do this. But for the most part, it doesn't work for me--my characters' appearances aren't the most important thing about them.
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Old 11-16-2012, 03:58 PM   #11
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I do it, too. I don't stop with actors, though. I also use comics, video games, animation as a source.

No, my characters appearances aren't the most important thing about them to me, either, but I still like to have some kind of concrete visual in my head as I write them.
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Old 11-16-2012, 05:05 PM   #12
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Well, that makes sense. Sometimes tho I get asked, "Which actor would play your protag?" and I have literally no idea. Although De Caprio might have done when he was younger.
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Old 11-16-2012, 05:11 PM   #13
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Well, that makes sense. Sometimes tho I get asked, "Which actor would play your protag?" and I have literally no idea. Although De Caprio might have done when he was younger.
Yeah. While I like to have a visual, I try not to stay married to my own choices because I've seen movies made where the actor chosen for the character didn't fit the image in my head, but then they opened their mouth and acted and totally changed my mind.

So...not married, definitely.
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The first draft is a huge pile of clay that you've laboriously heaped on your table, patting it into a rough shape as you go along. From the second draft onward, you'll cut away chunks, add bits, pat and punch and pinch, until you finally have a gorgeous figure of, oh, Marcus Aurelius. Or a duck. But a damn fine duck.
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Old 11-16-2012, 05:37 PM   #14
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Usually not, but I had one character who I identified so strongly with Harry Dean Stanton (circa mid-80s) that I had to name him Harry. I couldn't think of him any other way.
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Old 11-16-2012, 05:44 PM   #15
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I don't do it. I guess I tune in more to the personality than the 'person.' My characters are rarely described in detail, I kind of fluff that off, let the reader fill in the blanks. . .

Off on a tangent, casting Tom Cruise to play Jack Reacher? Yikes.
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Old 11-16-2012, 06:46 PM   #16
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I picked up on this habit from my old PBEM RPG days, where we chose actors/models for the characters we created. I still do this when I'm beginning a new project, and I could tell you exactly who my original models were for most of my books. Over time the character evolves and becomes who they are, and the image of the model tends to fade. But it's a fun exercise at the start of something.

Sometimes thinking about actors/models can spark an idea, too. I once wrote a screenplay based on a conversation with my dad, wherein he asked if two particular (popular at the time) actors had ever made a movie together. We decided it would be a buddy western, and off I went.
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Old 11-16-2012, 07:48 PM   #17
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I don't think it's cheating. I don't do it, but I have a writing buddy who does. She's working on a trilogy and has actors decided for almost every character. Whatever works.
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Old 11-16-2012, 07:56 PM   #18
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I absolutely use images of people I find online, some famous actors, some models, but it's for looks alone (not personality). I did this before I started writing so I could hone in on aspects of the features that I needed to describe.

I love my casting "sheet," but in no way will I ever (ever) share it with the world. It's for me and me alone. And, some of the images have changed over time when I see someone who better fits the physical description.
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Old 11-16-2012, 08:06 PM   #19
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I do it. Its more of a general image to begin with but normally it changes along the way. I don't do it for personality and such as I tend to let that develop all by itself.
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Old 11-16-2012, 08:52 PM   #20
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I do it as an excuse to look up half nekkid pictures of Matt Bomer.
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Old 11-16-2012, 09:00 PM   #21
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I do to some extent. Mostly it gives me a starting point, and it's easier for me to 'see' the expressions I want to portray if I have an actual face.
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Old 11-16-2012, 09:23 PM   #22
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I personally can't do it, I need the character to grow organically from nothing rather than from a template.
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Old 11-16-2012, 10:00 PM   #23
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Ooo, I have never heard of doing this but I really like the idea. I am not a very visual reader, so anything that would help me visualize my own characters more could definitely help.

Plus I feel like it would be fun to try and find someone who looks right! Or close enough to being right.
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:04 PM   #24
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I've done biographies/profiles of some characters, but I don't do really detailed descriptions. I tend to prefer the reader relate to the character and see them in their own mind. I have used lines like:

"She looked exactly like Jennifer Jason Leigh. The Fast Times one, not the Dolores Claiborne one."

But that's not normally for my major characters, just the window dressing.

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Old 11-16-2012, 11:43 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LJ Hall View Post
I was reading the pantsing versus outlining thread and thinking about my own technique, and I realized that one thing I do whether I'm pantsing or outlining is that I cast my major roles.

There's a folder with all my word files, strictly pictures of actors and actresses that I've picked out to represent characters in my mind. Everyone from famous Oscar winners to people from stock photos or hair-style websites. (I tend to stay away from really evocative performers, like, say, Robert Downey Jr, who bring their own personalities with them.) It simply helps that person stay vivid in my head.

Do other people do this? Would you consider it a cheat? The thing I like most about it is that you can describe that specific person if you want, in immense physical detail, and your readers would still rarely actually picture the actor you're describing. Unless they cast books as they read them, which is probably a thing.
I thought I was the only one who did this! I prefer using real life people to be the "models" for my characters, in terms of appearance. Like you said, it allows for immense physical detail. I also find it hard to come up with a face all by itself without leaning towards someone famous anyway.
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