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Book Covers and Character-Casting

Monday, February 15, 2010

Last week, on Open Mic day (which I’ve decided to make a regular weekly feature on Wednesdays, by the way), I mentioned having completed and turned in the questionnaires on the books in my upcoming contemporary romance series with Barbour and that I send a file of reference images—mainly of the characters but with a few ideas for the background/setting as well—along with it.

If you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you know that I use Real World Templates for my characters, which are usually actors or actresses, with the occasional model or reality TV personality thrown in. Well, with the Matchmakers series, because these aren’t characters/stories I’ve been working with for years—as with the characters of all of my previous books—it’s been a lot easier for me to be slightly more flexible with what my characters look like. And considering that the model on the initial cover of Love Remains looked nothing like the description or images I sent them, I thought I’d try to make it easier for them by re-casting the heroines of the second and third books in the series with models from a stock image website.

There are several stock photo websites around. The one I happen to prefer using is (UPDATE MAY 2014: This is now I like using it because (a) I could sign up for a free user account (to be able to pull images without a watermark across them) and (b) because their search protocols are fantastic—allowing me to really hone my search for specific characteristics/keywords.

For the covers of the Matchmakers series, they’ve decided to feature the heroine on the front cover, so in my cover questionnaires for books two and three in the series, I really focused on the descriptions of the heroines.

Caylor Evans, The Art of Romance
When I first came up with the character of Caylor Evans in The Art of Romance, the Real World Template I chose for her was the American plus-size model Kate Dillon. But this was just based off of the idea of wanting her to be plus-sized and having Kate Dillon as one of the few plus-sized people in my casting book other than Emme, whom I’d already used in Stand-In Groom. Then I ran across a gorgeous redheaded plus-size model on both Nordstrom and Lane Bryant’s websites. I was able to find so many images of her conveying a wide range of emotions, and she fit more of the kind of person I thought Caylor might be.

And then I started writing Love Remains, in which Caylor is a major secondary character. And I realized that I needed to change up Caylor’s personality somewhat to create more contrast between her and Zarah. And besides, someone who lives with her grandmother who goes by the grandma-nickname “Sassy” had to have some of that sassiness rub off on her. So, since I wanted to find stock photos that, maybe, Barbour could use (they could still use stock images of someone else—that’s their prerogative), I went to Jupiter Images and did an image search for young woman–>red hair. After quite a bit of searching and refining (one person only, age 25–30—because their 30-35 year old tagged models looked more like 40–45 years old, caucasian, etc.) I ran across this picture:

There was so much life, so much personality—so much STORY—in that one picture that I knew she was the perfect template for Caylor. So I figured out which photographer/company had posted that picture and refined my search further to find more pictures of that model, which can be seen here. I decided I would still make the character larger than this model, but not so much that it would be obvious if Barbour does decide to use this model on the cover. Here’s the description I sent to Barbour, along with several images of this model:

A. Main Character #1: Caylor Evans

      Age— 34
      Occupation—English professor at a small liberal arts college, published author
      Hair Color—Red
      Eye Color—Turquoise (bluish-green)
      Hair Style—Short, sassy, “stylishly messy”
      Clothing Style—Trendy and stylish but professional/understated
      Overall Description (could include height, build, personal style, countenance, etc.)—Almost six feet tall, size 14 (which makes her about “average sized” so not too skinny but not plus-sized either). Pretty, with a big smile and twinkling, mischievous eyes. Likes to laugh. Occasionally wears reading glasses, but not all the time.

Once I had re-cast Caylor with stock images and completed my cover questionnaire (of course, my hero, Dylan Bradley, didn’t have to change—fortunately, the heroes are going to be rather blurry and in the background on these covers), it was time to turn my focus onto Flannery.

Flannery McNeill, Turnabout’s Fair Play
When I came up with the story idea for Turnabout’s Fair Play, I had one particular actress in mind: Rosamund Pike, whom many of you may remember as Jane Bennett in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice or as Dr. Samantha Grimm in Doom or, more recently, as the vapid, wide-eyed Helen in An Education. As I started writing the character of Flannery McNeill, also a major secondary character in Love Remains, I was having a little trouble connecting Rosamund Pike with the character who was emerging on the page. I think part of the reason I was having trouble was because I also used Rosamund Pike as the template for the (minor) character of The Honorable Miss Penelope Fairfax in the first two Ransome books. So it wasn’t that difficult for me to choose to re-cast Flannery also.

Once again, I went to Jupiter Images and started putting specific criteria into the search protocol. And eventually I ran across the image that (I think) would be the perfect image for the front cover of the book:

Even though I hadn’t pictured Flannery with quite so much hair, once I was able to track down more images of this model (and there are tons!), I realized how much of the personality the character Flannery had already started exhibiting that I was seeing in this model’s pictures. And here’s the description of her I sent:

A. Main Character #1: Flannery McNeill

      Age— 33
      Occupation—Senior editor at a book publishing company
      Hair Color—Blond
      Eye Color—Hazel/light brown
      Hair Style—Long, with long layers set it in hot rollers to make it wavy, bangs
      Clothing Style—Business/professional (suits, pants/blouses, trendy/fashion-conscious casual wear)
      Overall Description (could include height, build, personal style, countenance, etc.)—Tall (about 5’9″), slender with a slight hourglass shape, long limbs. Pale eyebrows that she darkens slightly with makeup. Full lips.

Your Assignment
Now, your assignment for today, should you choose to accept it, is to copy the following “form” and paste it into the comment box, fill it out, then post a link to a “reference image” for the character you’ve described, like the images I’ve posted above. You can use an already existing character and you can use the image of an actor, actress, athlete, model, or something you find on Jupiter Images or SuperStock or wherever you choose to search. And if you’re not a writer, you can use a character from someone else’s book (just be sure to reference the book’s title and the author’s name to give credit where credit’s due).

A. Main Character #1:
Hair Color—
Eye Color—
Hair Style—
Clothing Style—
Overall Description (could include height, build, personal style, countenance, etc.)—

  1. Monday, February 15, 2010 8:05 am

    When you did your series of blogs on casting a few weeks ago, it inspired me to get out there and find the prototypes for the characters in my WIP. It has amazed me how much easier it is to write details about them when I can literally see them in my head.

    My main character is Sarah, and I’ve selected Emily Deschanel (of “Bones”) as my lead. The picture in the Photobucket link below has her hair a little different from her “Bones” character, and it’s much more like I had in mind for Sarah. Thanks for the exercise!

    Main Character #1: Sarah Jane Crawford –
    picture at

    Age— 28
    Occupation— High School music teacher
    Hair Color— Brown with reddish highlights
    Eye Color— Hazel (can turn blue or brown on a whim, depending on what she’s wearing!)
    Hair Style— Longish, slightly curly layers, but can be straightened.
    Clothing Style— business casual, athletic gear
    Overall Description — Sarah is tall (compared to me) at 5’9″, slender in build, but athletic; beautiful, but doesn’t really consider herself more than “average.” She is a runner, a people-pleaser, and is generally pretty calm. She hides pain and anger well. Too well, sometimes. Sarah loves to decorate, loves to rearrange, but hates to de-clutter and do the mundane chores of housework. She’d rather be reading, running, playing with her dog, or playing the piano.


    • Monday, February 15, 2010 11:50 am

      I’ve always thought Emily looked a lot like Zooey, but in that first picture on Photobucket, she looks like she could be Brooke Shields’s sister!

      How has using a template affected the way you write the character?


      • Monday, February 15, 2010 12:12 pm

        I’ve actually put together pics for all the important characters in MS#1, since most of them will be recurring in #2 and #3, HOPEFULLY.

        I had already written a template with their physical and personality characteristics, so basically I had to find pictures of people that fit that ideal – my kids loved helping with that. Since actually “meeting” them, I’ve been revising chapter 1, and as a result added about a third more to that chapter, which will result in tweaks throughout the book. I guess I’m a visual person, because now that I have those actors and actresses in my head, and I have seen them in not only still shots but also moving, I can write expression and movement that simply wasn’t there to write, before. I told a reader friend that I might actually have a trade-sized manuscript if I add complete scenes to my chapters the way I have this one!

        Right now, though, my main goal is to get chapter 1 ready for Genesis. Guess how many pages it is? FIFTEEN.


  2. Monday, February 15, 2010 11:00 am

    Fun Kaye, I’ll try and do this.
    “Al be bock!” Can you hear Arnold? 😉


  3. Monday, February 15, 2010 2:28 pm

    Okie dokie! Here it is. Sorry its long. :] you got me going. LOL


  4. Monday, February 15, 2010 3:10 pm

    It doesn’t look like my link went through. Did I do something wrong?

    Once again. 🙂 Sorry it’s so long, you really got me going!


  5. Monday, February 15, 2010 11:17 pm

    A. Main Character #1:
    Occupation—Deputy Sheriff / Detective
    Hair Color—Dark Brown
    Eye Color—Dark Brown
    Hair Style—Wavy shoulder length
    Clothing Style—Stylish professional for work; jeans/t-shirt off
    Overall Description (could include height, build, personal style, countenance, etc.)—Jennifer is of latin origin but you would never know it from the way she dresses, acts or eats. She is heavily driven in her professional and private life but is also very tuned into her feminine intuition. She often acts upon her gut feelings rather than the facts in front of her although she is all about proving criminals guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

    She is very sloppy in her personal life and is notorious for not cleaning up her bedroom or her house. Some people describe her townhouse as little more than a frat house with pictures of guys on the wall. She has a cardboard cutout of Robocop in her bedroom.


  6. Monday, February 15, 2010 11:25 pm

    I’m in on this a little late…out of town w/out Internet for a week…ugh.

    Anyway. This is the description of my main character (based on actress/singer Susan Egan) for my current WIP, a contemporary fiction.

    Main Character: Elaine Roberta Harley
    Occupation—has worked odds and ends to support her mother and daughter…current occupation is a research assistant for a novelist.
    Hair Color—dark brown
    Eye Color—hazel
    Hair Style—short chin-length bob with straight across bangs
    Clothing Style—Her clothing style evolves through the story…at the beginning she’s likely to throw on a pair of sweats, by the end of the novel she has a much…uh, trendier, for lack of a better word…sense of style.
    Overall Description (could include height, build, personal style, countenance, etc.)—5’3, slender build. The stress level in her life is very high, so she often looks tired. But she has a lovely smile, when she actually does.

    And here’s the link to the picture…


  7. Tuesday, February 16, 2010 12:37 am

    A. Main Character #1: Eliana Van Horn
    Age— 19
    Occupation— Photography Assistant
    Hair Color— Light Brown
    Eye Color— Hazel
    Hair Style—Medium length, sometimes worn up
    Clothing Style— 1875 long dresses suitable for the western frontier, sometimes wears male attire for work
    Overall Description (could include height, build, personal style, countenance, etc.)— 5’5″, medium frame, non-pretentious, adventuresome, inquisitive, blushes easily. She’s passionate about her work as an assistant to her Photographer father whom she travels with, sometimes in disguise as “Eli”. She also brings light to those around her her winsome disposition.


  8. Sylvia permalink
    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 8:34 pm

    I am not a writer, but here are some photos and descriptions of the two main characters in two of my favorite series. This series, by Gilbert and Lynn Morris is The Dr. Cheney Duvall, M.D. series. There’s also a three book (so far) series as a a follow-up to this main series.

    A. Main Character #1: Dr. Cheney Duvall, M.D.

    Age— 24-30 by the end of the series
    Occupation—Medical doctor
    Hair Color—auburn
    Eye Color—light green
    Hair Style—long, curly, heavy; difficult to manage
    Clothing Style—the height of fashion in the post civil war years
    Overall Description (could include height, build, personal style, countenance, etc.)- Dr. Cheney Duvall, from New York, is one of the few women doctors in the post civil war era. She has to live with not being accepted in a field where mostly men dominate. Cheney is an unfashionable 5’10” and has almost overcome her difficulty of stuttering. The Morrises describe her as having a face too strong to be called beautiful; heavy, dark brows over sea-green eyes; a beauty mark high up on her cheekbone.

    B. Main Character #2: Shiloh Irons

    Age— unknown; Cheney guesses he’s 22 of 23.
    Occupation—nurse; prize fighter
    Hair Color—blondish
    Eye Color—sky blue
    Hair Style—longish on the collar
    Clothing Style—He’s never seen without his Confederate breeches with the yellow stripe down the side and his trench coat.
    Overall Description (could include height, build, personal style, countenance, etc.) Shiloh is 6’5″; eyes are surrounded by scar tissue; has a deep “V” scar next to his left eye; lean, lithe muscled body; very laid back; talks with a relaxing drawl; a perfect gentleman; everyone is very comfortable in his presence.



  1. Character-Casting « Blog Schmog

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