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Be Your Own Casting Director Refresher

Monday, February 23, 2009

Because I found out late last week that I’m needed to do some more on-site editing work Monday, you’re getting another refresher today.

Be Your Own Casting Director–Character Casting (October/November 2006). See also Creating Credible Characters, Storyboarding
Be Your Own Casting Director: Introduction

    “…Do you have pictures hanging off the sides of your computer monitor? Maybe tacked to a bulletin board? In a notebook or folder? Or (like me) electronically stored on your computer? Let’s talk about how to use those images for deeper character development and inspiration for our writing. …”

Be Your Own Casting Director: Real World Template Exercise

    “…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. …”

BYOCD: Creating a Casting Book

    “…Always be on the lookout for images of people who strike a creative nerve inside you.

    • Go online to clothing sellers such as Land’s End, LL Bean, J Crew, Eddie Bauer, etc., and request to receive their mailed-out catalogs.
    • Buy magazines such as People or other publications that focus more on photos of people and less on articles. (Entertainment- and fashion-focused mags work best.)
    • Watch for actors in movies – especially those in secondary roles – and find out their names by watching the credits or looking the movie up on (Internet Movie Database). Then do a Google Image Search for the actor/actress.
    • You can also use real people, and in this day and age of camera phones it’s easier to capture an image of someone you happen to see who strikes that creative nerve, but just make sure that you aren’t describing someone whose features are so unique they’ll be able to pick themselves out. …”

BYOCD: Collecting Images

    “…The inspiration for this historical romance involving a Royal Navy captain and the spinster daughter of his admiral came through an actor in a secondary role in the A&E movies based on the Horatio Hornblower novels. While watching these movies, I became enamored with the somewhat stiff and stodgy—but loyal and good-hearted—Lt. William Bush, portrayed by an actor with the most amazing light-blue eyes I have ever seen. (I’m an eye-girl, what can I say?) After seeing the movies the first time, I knew I wanted to add several of the actors to my casting book. (Upon multiple viewings, I started focusing on Lt. Bush as inspiration for my Captain Ransome.)…”

BYOCD: Putting RWTs to Work for You

    “…Once you have cast your characters and begun the process of collecting images, you may find yourself thinking of scenes inspired by the images you see. Just like there are two ways to cast characters, I employ two methods of collecting images—those that seem to fit with the actions or emotions of scenes I’ve already written, and those that generate ideas for potential scenes. …”

BYOCD: Guided Brainstorming with RWTs

    “…What is going on in this image? Who are these two men? Where are they? What is their relationship to each other? Now, imagine these two are characters in your story. What’s the setting? What is going on between them? What is being said as this “snapshot” was taken? What will happen immediately after this? Is one the good guy and one the bad guy? How will what’s happening in this moment influence the rest of the story? …”

Other posts about using Real World Templates/Character Casting:
Virtual Barbies and Paper Dolls

    “…My stories are always character driven, and those characters come to me in a variety of ways, most especially through the “what if” process—what if I ran into a member of one of the popular boy-bands of the eighties. I would never recognize him because I did not listen to that kind of music nor did we have cable/MTV. Thus begins the premise of a novel involving a former boy-band member and an opera diva. Another major source of characters for me is from secondary characters in movies and/or TV shows that intrigue me (which I’ve written about in recent posts). …”

Storyboard Examples

    “A couple of days ago, I wrote about using visuals for creating my characters and getting inspiration for scenes. I wanted to share the storyboards I’ve been working on for Ransome’s Honor to give an example of what I’m talking about. Each image includes a background of the setting as well as major characters who have named/active appearances in the scene. …”

For Discussion:
Do you cast your characters when you’re writing? If so, who are you using right now? What led you to use him/her for your character’s template?

  1. Monday, February 23, 2009 9:53 am

    When I’m writing screenplays it’s usually a good idea to not do this simply because by the time anyone actually sees the final product they’re going to be told exactly what a character looks like. Since you can’t know who’s going to play the parts or even what’s realistic, imagining specific actors in a role is risky because even if you think they fit perfectly and would do it, schedule differences can ruin that in the blink of an eye.

    As such, when I write, I more or less imagine blank faces with more specific body types and clothing style – maybe a little more specific hair style. The details of eye color, hair color, etc. aren’t worth specifying 99% of the time, because then I’d only be limiting my casting options.

    Plus, I think this kind of character casting can be risky in general – at least risky to admit publicly. For instance, when I read Stand-In Groom I really liked Forbes, but when I found out he was modeled after Julian McMahon, I liked him less just because I absolutely hated him in the Fantastic Four movies.


  2. Monday, February 23, 2009 2:50 pm

    I kinda cast my characters but not religiously.

    Jenny is a lady that I found off a bridal website who was swathed in a gorgeious gown. It was a site where ‘real’ people post their pictures for their friends/family to look at. (aka writer’s who are searching for the perfect character!)

    Jack is Chris O’Donnell.

    Paige is at the moment a lady I found off a hair style website. This might change, but the look is just SO her.

    Peter is a guy from a visiting singing troupe that came to our church from a nearby college. I was sitting in the pew and elbowed my husband and whispered, ‘That’s SO Peter.”

    He thought I was out of my mind, but whatever. I dont’ have his picture though, so now I need to go through and find a picture that looks like what’s in my head. Hmmm.


  3. Monday, February 23, 2009 7:07 pm

    Elizabeth is Emma Roberts. Uncle Horace is Eric Braeden. Donovan is Errol Flynn, and Paul…I have no idea at this point. I guess I really need to find someone since he’s the hero, but I just can’t get the pic in my head out into a “real” character.


  4. Monday, February 23, 2009 7:10 pm

    Ooh–Alexandra, I can really see Uncle Horace as Eric Braeden. Good choice!


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