I was reading the Readermail section of Writer’s Digest today (yes, I read that section. I also enjoy CD liner notes, author’s acknowledgements and cereal boxes – there are reasons why I’m still single) when a note about a previous article on character development sounded familiar (no, I didn’t write it): “I especially liked Bell’s idea of compiling a visual collage of my characters with pictures from the Internet.”
I have one of those! I call it the Character Book. It’s nothing fancy; just a scrapbook, photos printed off the Internet and my stats for each character (hair/eye color, motivation, relation to other characters, etc.). It’s basically my bible. I’ve been putting it together for the last 2-3 years and I have 34 roles filled (yes, I just counted). I don’t have a Guinevere, which may seem odd because she’s the main character, but I kind of like it that way. Because my book is first person, I write through her eyes, which is the way you’ll read the story, so I’m not as worried about who would play her as I am what’s going on inside her mind and heart.
So why the Character Book? For one, it’s fun and gives me a chance to play casting director, but it’s really the easiest way to get a well-rounded idea of the character. I always start with the character first, however he or she presents him/herself in my head (physical appearance, voice, personality or just a feeling) and then find an actor/actress to fit the character. I don’t do it with the actor first because that would mean building an artificial character. (I like my characters to be organic, much like my fruits and veggies.) Having an actor in mind makes it easier for me to visualize how the character will move, react and ever deliver certain lines. I’ve actually found myself watching things my “characters” are in just to become more familiar with them. You’d be surprised how many shows/movies I’ve had to pause because a mannerism or voice inflection caught my imagination and inspired a plot point. (I say take inspiration wherever you can get it.) It’s also a great tool when I’m stuck in the middle of a scene or if I can’t get dialogue right between two characters. I’ve been known to open the book, curve the pages so two characters are side-by-side and command them to talk to each other. The even crazier thing is, it usually works!
It’s my dream that someday when the books are published I can have a family tree up on my web site (you need one because everyone is related somehow) that pops up a photo of the actor or actress I envision when you hover over the character’s name. But that’s still to come. I’d like everyone to have the chance to form their own mental images first. And of course, I’d love to have some say in who plays whom when the books get made into movies, but that’s getting ahead of myself. Must get the books published first.
PS – Since this post was originally written, I’ve created a board on Pinterest for my characters – kind of an online character book. Check it out.
So tell me, who do you think would be a good choice to play one of the Arthurian characters? I’m always interested in how others envision them.