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Be Your Own Casting Director: Real World Template Exercise

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Last time, I gave a list of descriptors to use to write a few sentences about a character. The general terms I gave (brown hair, brown eyes, medium build) is the kind of generic description that most people can give when they’ve witnessed a crime. This is why police have witnesses work with sketch artists so they can have a concrete image to go from.

Back in the “olden days” when posting images or photos on the internet or through e-mail wasn’t very easy, if you were going to meet up with someone you’d only chatted with online, you might have to rely on the same type of generic description—and maybe a specific piece of clothing or something to look for. I remember at the first ACRW conference in 2002 that there were so many people I thought I knew well because I’d gotten to know them through the e-mail list, but when I met them face to face I felt like I didn’t know them because they didn’t look anything like the mental image I’d formed of them.

Although I haven’t come across it recently, there have been times when I’ve read a book where the character is described one way in the beginning (with green eyes) and then later in the book has a different appearance (with brown eyes). Most of the times, this is a continuity problem an editor will catch, but also something that can mean the difference between a contract and a rejection.

I have used Real World Templates for my characters for as long as I’ve been writing. The romance genre, probably more so than any other, requires specific and detailed physical descriptions of the characters. Because I’m visually oriented, I find it much easier to remember what my characters look like if I have a picture—or series of pictures—to go from. That way, I can be sure that my character descriptions remain consistent.

In a later session, I will get into how having multiple images of the character can help with developing the character, but in this lesson, let’s look just at how having an image can inspire ideas for a character.

Look at the sentences you wrote last time. Now, click on this link. Now write a new paragraph and focus on the physical characteristics while also including emotion and personality.

What is the difference between your two paragraphs? Was it easier to describe him physically from the list of characteristics or from the photo? Did the photo give you ideas for what he might be thinking or what his personality might be like that is different from what you wrote in the first exercise?

Now you may be thinking, Yeah? So what? It’s easy to come up with a physical description from a photo.

Once you start to build your casting book, if you’re as obsessive as I am, you’ll be able to find images of your RWTs that can help define your characters’ . . . well character.

Stick around, because next time I’ll discuss creating a casting book of your RWTs and how and where to find and store images!

  1. Anonymous permalink
    Tuesday, October 24, 2006 2:08 am

    More helpful info! When I saw that picture, the character in my mind’s eye BECAME that man.


  2. GeorgianaD permalink
    Tuesday, October 24, 2006 11:19 pm

    A casting book is a really good idea. I’m terrible at physical descriptions in my writing, because if I go with traditional hair/eye color it sounds so canned. Somehow in my book the descriptions related to food, not sure how that happened, but I’ll have to make sure not to repeat myself this time around!


  3. Indiana permalink
    Tuesday, November 2, 2010 6:34 pm

    I have a distinct mental image of what my characters look like and have pictures to support it. But I have trouble finding a way of inserting the description into the book. Any tips?


    • Tuesday, November 2, 2010 7:18 pm

      The best way to figure it out is to read a bunch of books by your favorite authors in the genre you’re writing and see how they do it. Underline, highlight, or mark with Post-it Notes so that you can refer back to it time and time again.



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