Characters, Writing

Who are the stars of your book?

The probability of any of my novels ever making it to the big screen—or even the small one—is remote. Considering some of the horrible book adaptations I’ve seen, that may be a blessing. But I’m not waiting on Hollywood anyway. I’ve already cast mine.

Actually, I’ve recast them. When I started the first draft of The Brevity of Roses, I visualized certain actors as some of the characters, but by the time I finished, those had changed. I expect you also visualize the characters you read and write about.

Do you see them as celebrities, people you know in real life, or do you use the details given in the book to conjure your own images? Maybe you use a combination. Maybe you see only vague images. While I wrote Brevity, I could never see Renee’s face clearly. I saw brief glimpses, but could never hold on to the image.

Do you prefer an author to describe their characters in exacting detail or leave some things to your imagination? (I prefer to use my imagination.)

Are you ever disappointed in the casting when you see a movie adaptation of a novel you’ve read? (Yes. And it takes me a while to adjust my brain. It never did for Interview with the Vampire.)

If you’re a writer, do you ever wonder how readers visualize your characters? (I do, so if you’ve read anything of mine and would like to share who you saw as my characters, please share.)

12 thoughts on “Who are the stars of your book?”

  1. While reading, most characters remain sort of ambiguous in my mind’s eye, with a few details here and there that separate them from the rest. They start out as faceless mannequins, then get distinguishing details as they’re introduced in the book. Some stay as mannequins, it really depends on how meaningful the description is. Unless I really sit down and think about what they look like, I don’t usually visualize more that this. I prefer it when there’s a more vague description about the character. Important things, like, for example, race, I like to be established, please, and soon in the character’s introduction. I also like getting those more creative descriptions, like “He had a face like a weathered log, pinched, squinting eyes, and fat, cracked lips that never seemed to smile.” Easy, quick, and I’ve got a pretty good idea of what they look like. Prefer imagination all the way. I simply can’t remember the long, detailed descriptions of a character.

    I haven’t gotten upset over castings for movies. I always figured it didn’t really matter and I’d still imagine the character the same way. I have been disappointed sometimes with how actors handled the role, but that’s a different issue.

    For writing, I happen to have the ability to draw, and draw fairly well, so I create visual representations of my characters, which usually forces me to think more about their appearance, which makes it easier to write their descriptions and pick out the details that are most important and striking. I’ve also had the good fortune of getting fan art a few times of my work, so I’ve had the unique treat of actually seeing what someone else sees my character as. It’s really interesting to see the different interpretations of the same person in my head, and it’s really awesome because they’re all valid interpretations of what I wrote.

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, Rhiannon. 🙂 

      I agree. I like things left to my imagination too. I know it’s conventional in certain genres to describe every physical aspect of every character, but I don’t read those genres. But I try harder to form a mental picture than you do, at least of the main characters. I think I need that to get deep enough into the story.

      I am/was a professional portrait artist, so I tried to paint the main character of my published novel, but couldn’t quite capture him. I meant to try again, but life did not cooperate. Maybe someday I’ll treat myself. That’s must be fun to get fan art.

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      1. Even in those certain genres (especially Romance), I wish they would describe less (especially Romance). Taking the Romance for example, the hot, attractive lead guy is always described in loving detail and what the writer finds hot and what I find hot are usually not the same thing, so I don’t find him hot. If there was less description, then he could turn into my perfect dream guy in my head. (I picked Romance just because it’s easy and perhaps the one genre with the MOST physical descriptions per character)
        For me, it’s more about the emotional connection. Many times, I couldn’t give a damn about what a character looks like, it’s how strongly I feel for them and want them to succeed that drags me into a story. Though, I agree, it’s nice to have a vivid image of a character since it makes them more concrete and real.
        I’ve noticed that portraiture is a totally different beast from pulling an image from your head. I can’t draw a good portrait to save my life, but if I need to draw a character’s portrait, I’m right there, ready to go. It’s a different way of thinking/training, I think. I know of a few artists who do both, and they have to do practice runs to switch between them. I hope you can get back into it and try it again. It just takes practice to get the hang of switching mental gears.
        It’s a brilliant feeling. Sure, all of it came from close friends who knew me for my art and it was from that community that it sprung, but it’s still pretty cool to see how other people view a character. It’s really interesting if you have a romantic subplot, and the lead guy or girl’s appearance changes from artist to artist depending on what they find attractive and would want in a romantic interest.

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  2. Truthfully, when an author details too much I tend only to remember certain outstanding details anyway. As you know, I don’t tend to describe my character physically, their inner characteristics always felt more important to me. It was what I remember. It the same way when I read a book..

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    1. I agree, Laura. I get annoyed when writers insist on listing every physical characteristic of every character. Usually, they also keep me informed on what each character is wearing at all times. I know that’s convention in some genres, so I try to avoid those books, but occasionally an author in “my” genre does that and most of the time it has no bearing on the story.

      And I didn’t remember how much, or little, you described your characters in Bitter, Sweet, but I formed very clear images of them. 🙂

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  3. Well, Jane Austen described Lizzie Bennet as “a pair of fine eyes” so I generally don’t put too much description in my own characters. Perhaps a color of eyes or a lock of sandy hair. But it’s usually only one thing. I know wht my characters look like.

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  4. As of how I imagine my characters, they are a mix of celebrities and people I know. For example, I used the characteristics of my older brother (who is the good looking one in our family) as my main character, and I imagined Josh Holloway as another character in my book… I do it mostly because I need them to think on their own, so I imagine those who fit what I want in my characters.

    Like you, I prefer my imagination to give shape… which is why we always say the book was better than the movie, because we are the directors, and the ones who cast the characters.

    It often disappointing who they choose in the movies… for some reason, they are never who we imagine.

    I always wonder how they visualize my character… my fiance says that she pictures me as the main character in my thriller… 🙂
    But I think its always who have left their mark and impact on the readers… wither a celebrity or a close loved one… or even that someone they met at line… no limits for the imagination… that’s why there will always be new ideas and novels to come.

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, Ahamin. Yes, allowing your reader to fill-in the blanks like that is a good thing I think. You want your reader to “participate” in the story. 🙂

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