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Writer-Chat Tuesday: Character Casting Ideas (for a presentation)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I’m going to be speaking at the Arkansas ACFW meeting this Saturday, and they’ve asked me to do my workshop on Character Casting.

Well, to be perfectly honest, it’s been six years since the last time I did this workshop—in 2006 as my teaching module my last residency at grad school. When I pulled up the presentation, I found it woefully outdated. I’ve got a bunch of my own new methods and techniques and websites to add to it (actually, I’m planning to start brand new, rather than trying to revise the old one).

So, since I’m starting over again, I thought I would broaden my horizons, cast my nets wide, and find out from all of you writers out there . . .

How do you “cast” (visualize) your characters? What are your favorite magazines, catalogues, websites, etc., from which to pull templates? How do you keep/organize your templates? How do you use your templates when you’re in the process of writing your story?

Let’s have some fun!

  1. dmdowner permalink
    Tuesday, October 9, 2012 9:33 am

    Character Casting Ideas (for a presentation):

    I love using catalogs, but the story I’m working on now is about an outdoor photographer in the Smoky Mountains. For this, I went to the National Geographic web site and found all I needed. Not only photo equipment but the necessary clothing for the character. Nat Geo also has wonderful pics that I use as settings. For her cabin, I went to websites advertising rentals for cabins or houses. They give great detail on the inside and outside of the houses. for a wider picture, try Google Earth. It gives excellent views of everything you want to see! You’ll love it.


    • Wednesday, October 10, 2012 11:32 am

      Back when I first started writing (around age 13-14), I hoarded all of the catalogs in the house and saved allowance to buy magazines. I would recycle my science-fair or other project poster boards and make storyboards with the cutouts—and make sure that the boards stayed well-hidden in my closet!

      It wasn’t until I was thirty years old and went to my first writers’ conference and one of the workshop instructors brought out her storyboard—catalog and magazine cutouts pasted onto poster board—that I finally realized I wasn’t as odd as I’d always thought! 🙂


  2. Tuesday, October 9, 2012 12:18 pm

    Please share your workshop with us! 😀


    • Tuesday, October 9, 2012 12:40 pm

      You can see the content from the original one on the Writing Series Index page under “Be Your Own Casting Director.” I may see if I can re-do it once I complete the new presentation!


  3. Tuesday, October 9, 2012 1:27 pm

    I tend to use people I’ve seen on television or movies, simply because I can “see” them moving more easily. I opened a account where my characters reside, and then I have a computer file with character sheets on each character. I also have a file on my photobucket acct. with some of the places in my book. For both, I just used Google Images, since I’m not “using” them for any type of publication.


    • Wednesday, October 10, 2012 11:33 am

      Up until last year, I used Flickr as the repository for my images. Now I do it on Pinterest.


  4. Tuesday, October 9, 2012 2:16 pm

    I have a few boxes of the old sepia-toned photographs gathered over the years from flea markets, antique malls, auctions, etc. I love going through them in search of faces. Oddly enough, even if I can’t describe a character with words, I usually recognize them when I see them. I also have a file of pages torn from magazines (with permission), but the modern “look” doesn’t usually inspire me for my historical fiction.


    • Wednesday, October 10, 2012 11:35 am

      I go back and forth with casting the characters in my historicals. Usually, I like to cast actors/actresses I’ve seen in period pieces. But sometimes, there’s a certain face, a certain voice, that draws me to someone and I’m able to use him/her without having seen them in that period costume or piece. (My current hero template is a case in point. Until he played the Huntsman, I’d never seen Chris Hemsworth in any kind of period piece. And the scruffy, dirty Huntsman is a far cry from my Victorian doctor—yet he’s still the spitting image of C.H.)


  5. Tuesday, October 9, 2012 4:27 pm

    I am just writing my first book so I am learning as I go, and I also listen to Kaye and other authors as to what they are doing. Personally I look at people on the internet to get an idea of what I want my characters to look like. I print their pictures off and tape them to the wall around my computer. When I am blocked, I stare at their pictures and sometimes the words start flowing again. Also I have a folder on each main character. In my book there are two weddings, so I got on line to pick out their wedding dresses, engagement rings, wedding rings for the brides and the grooms, flowers, and cakes. Then I print them off and put them in each character’s folder. These items may only get a slight mention in the book but I need to picture the entire weddings in my head. When I am finished with the book, I will take the pictures off the wall and place them inside the appropriate folders and file them away in my filing cabinet. I may use some of this material again in another book, who knows?


    • Wednesday, October 10, 2012 11:36 am

      I try to start over with new images for each story—that way I know I’m not repeating a description of a setting or a character.


  6. Tuesday, October 9, 2012 6:23 pm

    Internet pics, of actors mainly. All the better if the movie’s an historical. Lately I’ve found a bunch of Aussie actors from last year’s series, Wild Boys. It’s set in the era I’m writing in and most useful. I’ve got a file on my computer and scroll through that for inspiration. 🙂


    • Wednesday, October 10, 2012 11:37 am

      Not only is the template for my current hero an Aussie, but I’m making him an Aussie in the context of the story, too!


  7. Amanda Barratt permalink
    Tuesday, October 9, 2012 6:55 pm

    Hi Kaye,
    I was going to write you a long comment about how I cast characters, etc, but since I posted about it on my blog, I thought I’d just give you a link to that post

    Best of luck with your conference. I wish I lived closer, as your workshop sounds sooo interesting!



    • Wednesday, October 10, 2012 11:39 am

      I loved Enchanted Serenity of Period Films . . . it’s sad that she’s had to stop updating it, especially with all of the recent historical films that have come out. You sound a lot like me—I have to cast even secondary characters before I can write about them.


  8. Wednesday, October 10, 2012 10:20 am

    I also use TV or movie characters, and I keep photos of them in Scrivener, along with a character template with age, hair and eye color…other pertinent info. When I’m writing, if I need a peek at my character, I simple click on their file. Love Scrivener!


    • Wednesday, October 10, 2012 11:15 am

      I admire people who are so facile with their computers. I dislike having to click between digital files, so I’m the writer who ends up sitting in a “nest” of real paper as a book takes shape, surrounded by maps, a bulletin board with photos pinned to it, My yellow legal pad with the “book map” … & etc. As time has gone on, I’ve continued to experiment and I try to be open to learning new things (like Scrivener), but I’m still stuck in the stone age with paper and things I can see by turning my head … instead of clicking a mouse. This is a good discussion, Kaye. Thanks for starting it. I’m learning.


    • Wednesday, October 10, 2012 11:40 am

      I do something similar with One Note—though because I may write on several different devices (my desktop, laptop, iPad, phone), I’ve come to depend more and more on Pinterest, which I can access anywhere I have an internet connection.


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