Saturday, May 8, 2010

Picturing Your Characters

My current wip includes a partier/ladies' man/scientific genius guy named Griffin Kessler. This is a picture of Griffin:I know what you're thinking: But that's Jared Leto. Or, more accurately for my purposes: That's Jordan Catalano. When I did my character development for this book, I thought about what Griffin would look like, and he looks just like Jordan Catalano. He acts a lot like him, too - though certainly with some major differences (the scientific genius part being the most obvious). But as I'm writing the book, when I picture Griffin doing something, it's actually Jordan Catalano that I see.

Another character in this same book, Murphy, looks like this:Now you're thinking: But that's Cam Gigandet. The only movie I've ever seen Cam Gigandet in is Twilight, and Murphy is as far a cry from grungy James as you can get. When I picture Murphy in my head, I see Cam in the picture above, but not James.
And now, for any guys out there, here's the female mc in my book (Tabitha):
This is Margarita Levieva. The only movie role I've ever seen her play is Annie in The Invisible. Just like with Cam, Tabitha may look like Margarita, but her personality is all her own.

I do this with most of my characters, but not all. It just helps me visualize the character better when I see them as a real person. Their personalities may be similar or completely different, but it really doesn't matter. I'm not modeling the character after the person, just getting an image of them in my mind's eye.

How about you? What helps you visualize your characters? Do you make a list of their physical characteristics? Draw a picture? Cut a photo out of a magazine? Or raid the internet for pictures of your favorite stars (like me!)?


Exciting news: I won T.J. Carson's Famous Friday Contest again! Hop on over to T.J.'s blog to see last week's winners and for your chance to win one of these beauties for yourself:
Happy Mother's Day, Everyone!

68 comments:

Theresa Milstein said...

I always picture my characters as I write. First I get the visual, which is also often a person from TV or movies. Then I think of voice, mannerisms, personality, faults, and so on. Some characters are hybrids of a couple of people.

It's funny when I see a person who is supposed to be based on my character. Why does s/he they walk and talk so differently?

Piedmont Writer said...

I don't always have a clear picture of my characters but when I see them in a movie or in a picture I go BAM! that's them.

I've got to do this someday, post pictures of my characters.

Congrats on your win.

Aubrie said...

I picture actors and actresses for my books, too! How can you go wring with Jared Leto? Maybe I can find a place for him in my WIP!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I do exactly what you did - find actors and actresses who look like my characters. This was a lot of fun for my YA series, as one character looked like a young Hugh Jackman - and boy was that fun finding photos of him!

Susan Fields said...

Theresa - The extra bonus is we'll already know who to cast when the movie comes out! They'll just have to learn to walk and talk the right way. :)

Anne - I'd love to see pictures of your characters! This was a fun post to write, I feel like my characters are right here with me on this one. And it's cool to see my three leads all pictured together up above.

Aubrie - Why did they have to cancel My So-Called Life? I was so not ready to say goodbye to Jared/Jordan!

Susan Fields said...

L. Diane - That's definitely a benefit - perusing the internet for pictures of your character, all in the name of research!

VKT said...

I am not a writer like you Susan. I just come to read what you write. I follow you and Theresa M. because you are talented and whatever you use, keep using it!

Happy Mother's Day you future bestseller you!

Robby said...

I never picture actors and actresses when I'm writing. My characters are way too good for them. ;D

Old Kitty said...

yay!!!

Congratulations for being TJ's Famous Friday Winner!! Yay!!! Good for you!

Oooh as for visualising characters... I tend to choose people I see - whether ones I know or just pass by.. my commute to work is about an hour so plenty of time to people watch and then I see someone and there;s something about them that I like and try to remember later.

Kind of explains why the seat next to me is always empty! LOL!!

Take care
x

Jen said...

Susan you are so lucky to have won twice now! You're almost at the top for getting to be a judge *jealous*!!

What great character choices, good looking guys too! You know I make the characters up in my head and later when I see them on TV or in everyday life the image is burned in my head!!! It's awesome! I found my MC for my current WIP while working at Habitat for Humanity!!! She was standing there getting read to paint and I just recognized her as Lauren, ever since she has never left me!

Talli Roland said...

Congrats on winning not just once, but TWICE! You're a star!

Really enjoyed looking at your character photos! Have a great weekend.

T.J. Carson said...

OH-EM-GEE! ha. That is exactly what I do when I'm writing a book! I put 2-4 pictures of a famouse person I think looks like a character in my head onto a powerpoint slide and then put some describing features. And each character gets their own slide. I usually only visualize famous people for my male characters and female friends for my female characters. Not every guy can look like Brad Pitt haha but I guess a few of my guy friends look that good. The male MC of my novel looks like Brett Scallions/Jani Lane. Wow if you don't mind I think I might copy your post (with my character though) and link yours because I LOVE that you do it too!!!!!!!! And yes Joli's lips cracked me up haha!

Bossy Betty said...

Happy Mother's Day!

I think my characters are put together out of bits and pieces of people I know. I am like a mad scientist!

Susan Fields said...

VKT - You're so good for my self-confidence, I really hope you stick around! And it's nice to hear from the non-writers out there. :)

Robby - Ha! Good point. :)

Old Kitty - Thanks, I'm getting to be quite the Famous Friday pro! :) Do you carry a notebook on your commute? Sounds like you might need one...

Jen - I'm not sure I could be a judge, I'm too afraid of hurting anyone's feelings. :( How cool to find your character just walk into your life one day! Now if only Griffin or Murphy would just walk into mine (just kidding, hubby!) :)

Talli - Thanks for the Famous Friday congrats! I'm not sure about entering this week's contest, though. Poetry and I aren't exactly on friendly terms.

Susan Fields said...

T.J. - of course I don't mind if you want to use this idea for your post, the more the merrier - and I'd love to see your characters! I'm impressed with your power point slides, what a great idea!

Bossy Betty - I think all writers are like mad scientists in a way, that's our creative side. :) Happy Mother's Day to you, too!

Lydia Kang said...

I imagine my characters, and after the fact sometimes I'll see an actor on TV or the net and I'm like, "Oh. It's so-and-so."
So yeah, it's weird to see them in flesh and blood, but when I do, it gives me the chills!
Hey, thanks for following my blog and I'm a follower of your too now!

Kelly said...

Hmmm, I usually don't have a clear picture in my head of my characters - general characteristics, but not a complete visual...
I like yours though! I just met Jared Leto a few weeks ago!

Medeia Sharif said...

I don't always have a clear picture of my characters. Sometimes their features seem hazy, or their features change every time I visualize them (but with the correct hair/eye color and physique).

Susan Fields said...

Lydia - Thanks for coming by and following, it's great to have you here! I had a character in my previous book who was Dr. Chase from House, now everytime I watch House (and it's one of my favorite shows), I'm like, "Hey, there's Brady."

Kelly - I remember your post and the picture of you with Jared. I believe you said Jared and his brother were pretty cool. How awesome to meet him - I'm jealous! :)

Medeia - I don't always have a picture of my characters, sometimes I just imagine them in my head. I guess it's what the reader sees that counts, they're going to fill in their own details anyway.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Like you, Susan, I sometimes picture my characters as movie personalities. Samuel McCord I see either as Quigley from Quigley Down Under or as Vitto Mortensen with Sam Elliot's voice. Meilori is Lucy Liu. DayStar is Anthony Hopkins from SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Renfield as Michael Rennie from THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.

You always have a lovely blog, Roland

Susan Fields said...

Roland - I'm so glad to hear I'm not the only one who does this, but it seems a lot of us picture movie stars when we see our characters. And thank you, you have a lovely blog too, always with something great to read.

Shelley Sly said...

Hey there, I hopped on over from T.J.'s blog, and I love your idea! I have actors/celebrities that have inspired my characters too, and it's neat to find pictures of them and say, "that's what so-and-so looks like." Awesome post!

Susan Fields said...

Shelley - Thanks for coming by, it's great to have you here! Sounds like a lot of us take inspiration for our characters from celebrities, and I thought I was unique! :)

Tess said...

I'm so old ... I don't know a single one of these actors. Not a single one.

*sigh*

Catherine A. Winn said...

What a clever and fun idea! I usually just keep them in my head and that's worked well for me. But now, I'm off to get some entertainment mags and start cutting out pics and pinning them to the story board wall.

Susan Fields said...

Tess - We're the same age, so I KNOW you're not old! Seriously, you don't know Jared Leto? You never saw My So Called Life? That's one of my all-time favorite shows. I actually thought people reading my blog would be too young to know who he is, not too old. I think we just have different taste in movies/TV, because we're certainly NOT old!

Susan Fields said...

Catherine - I like to Google the person, the internet if chock full of pictures (and it's fun research). :)

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

That is so fun to envision your characters as actual people. My biggest problem is that sometimes I have a hard time finding pictures that actually look like what I have in my head. Ha. But your mcs are totally drool worthy.

Congrats on your win, too! Yay!

SAMUEL PARK said...

This totally saves you time for when they make the movie version. You can say, Here, got this thing cast already! Love it!

Susan Fields said...

Carolina - Thanks for the congrats! And I think I've seen too many movies, I seem to have this entire catalog of people in my head to fit about every character I could ever hope to come up with - sad, I know.

Samuel - I've thought the exact same thing! I figure I'm killing two birds with one stone here. :)

Paula said...

......and this way you have a head start on the movie version of you book. I suspect other commenters said that but I'm running out the door to work so I'll have to settle for (potentially) being repetitive! Cool post, Sue!

Susan Fields said...

Paula - Yes, I thought the same thing. Now I just need to get the actors/actresses to stop aging, (or reverse age, in Jared Leto's case) until I can get the book out and the movie deal signed. :)

Lisa and Laura said...

Sorry, but I didn't get past that picture of Jordan Catalano. Swoon.

Susan Fields said...

Lisa and Laura - Aha! Someone else who's experienced (NOT old) enough to remember Jordan Catalano. I do miss him!

Creepy Query Girl said...

I'm a lot like you in that a well known face usually pops in while i'm writing. Sometimes it's a movie star. Other times its a combination of people that i've known in my life. I have a picture of 'Gretchen Grey' on that blog that is actually the girl from 'The Little Princess' - that's just who I saw when I was writing it.

Jai Joshi said...

I get pictures of people who look similar to my characters or I draw my own pictures. I do that more often because that way I can make them exactly as I see them in my head.

Jai

Crystal Cook said...

Happy late mother's day to you!!

Jared Leto is my FAVE!! I love those characters you picked, but I didn't realize that was that James guy. WHOA he looks different :)

I do like you do, surf for pictures. But also they sometimes just pop into my head and I can see exactly what they look like. That's so fun :)

Ann said...

Congratulations on winning and for a second time! Well done.

Love your ideas for getting a picture of characters in your head. Mine tend to pop in. If they don't I have a hard time with them so maybe net surfing would solve that problem. :)

hemapen said...

That is such an interesting way to picture your characters, Susan! I never thought to do that...

My characters are all in my head, and I know them like I know my own family. I don't know if I'd like to actually put a face (from an existing actor/model) to any of them -- when I really like a book, I sometimes avoid the movie based on it. Just so my imagination doesn't get messed with... :)

TerryLynnJohnson said...

yum. now I want to read your work to hear about these guys!
This is a great idea. Think I'll try it. Thanks!

Ann Best said...

I'm reminded of novelist Anne Tyler who says she doesn't base ANY of her characters on anyone she knows. I can't do this. I have to visualize "characters" I know, then "make up" some traits, twist others, etc etc. I don't recall ever getting traits from movie characters, but that's an idea. I watch a lot of movies. I LOVE movies.

Mainly I get into the characters' emotions rather than their physical attributes. What they think, what they feel, how they act.

I came over here from Catherine Winn's The Writing Room where she has a link to your blog. So I'm grateful for her, and glad I came in here to read this post. Thanks for the information.

Susan Fields said...

CQG - I went and checked out your Gretchen Grey blog. The book sounds fantastic, and I agree, that little girl seems like the perfect fit for your story.

Jai - I wish I were an artist because that sounds like a great way to do it. I don't think stick figures would be too inspiring for me, though... :)

Crystal - I'm a huge Jared/Jordan fan, I so miss My So Called Life! Did you see Kelly Polark's post where she met Jared Leto and his band and posted the picture she had taken with them? Lucky girl!

Ann - Thanks for the congrats! I'm such a movie-aholic, I don't usually have a problem coming up with an actor/actress that fits what I think my character should look like. My biggest problem is that I have my faves and I want all my characters to look like them. :)

Hema - Yes, it's so disappointing when you see a movie and the actor doesn't match your vision of the character. Though sometimes it turns out better than you expected - like I thought the kid that played Percy Jackson did a really good job (though he and the girl - I forget her name right now - were both older than I expected.)

Susan Fields said...

TerryLynn - That's one of my favorite parts about being a writer, I get to spend all day with these great characters. :)

Ann - I'm a movie addict. I guess the nice part is I never have a hard time coming up with an actor/actress that fits what I think my character should look like. And I also love to watch how the movie characters react, what they say, how they talk - I think it's great research for writing.

Niki said...

Hi Susan, that's a great idea. I know exactly what my goblin and all the ponies look like but when it comes to the girl, I just can't picture her. Thanks :o)

Susan Fields said...

Niki - great! I hope this helps!

Dawn Simon said...

I cut photos from magazines or print them from Internet pics. I pin my pictures to the bulletin board above my computer so they're always within view. I think another benefit to keeping our characters straight in our heads is it's easier to stay consistent when describing them.

Your characters sound really cool. I especially like Murphy. ;)

Nice post, Susan!

Donna Hosie said...

Strangely enough, since I started writing YA fantasy, I no longer imagine actors as my characters, but when I write literary fiction, I always have a mental image of someone who is well known!

Susan Fields said...

Dawn - Murphy's my favorite, too! I'm not going to tell you if he gets the girl or not, though - you'll just have to read the book. :)

Donna - That is strange, for some reason it seems like it would be the other way around. Thanks for stopping by and following. I enjoyed my visit to your blog and am looking forward to many happy returns. It's always nice to meet another Lost fan!

Myrna Foster said...

I've cut pictures out of magazines before, but my characters never quite look like them in my head. Fun post!

Susan Fields said...

Myrna - I agree, even though I model the character after a specific person, they still have attributes that are all their own, that they don't share with their "model." We writers just naturally revise, I guess!

Stephen Tremp said...

I loved reading this post. Its fun to model characters after real people. I've modeled my protagonist after Matthew McConaughey, his best friend after Jack Black, a female assassin after Jessica Alba and so on. If Hollywood were to ever make a movie from my books, these would be the people I hope would play the main characters.

Stephen Tremp

Susan Fields said...

Stephen - I feel the same way. I'm going to have to work a Johnny Depp character into one of my books so I'll get the chance to meet him! For now, I guess I'll be happy with Jared Leto and Cam Gigandet. :)

Julie Dao said...

This is so cool! Yours is the second post I've seen today on characters and what they look like. I'm definitely going to do one of these soon. Your picks are great!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Very nice post, Susan! I know you know your characters inside and out. It's obvious when I read your work. :)

VKT said...

Susan,

It's me again...your teacher follower. I left an award for you on my blog today if you are interested.

Susan Fields said...

Julie - Are you going to post what your characters look like? I'll be interested to see!

Sharon - Aww...shucks! Thanks. :)

VKT - Of course I'm interested! Thanks so much, I've already proudly posted it on my sidebar. :)

Jackee said...

You're going to think I'm really lame, but I don't know any of these actors/actresses. I know, I live under a rock.

With my characters, I have a very clear visual of what they look like most of the time, but I've never been able to match them up with real live people. I even try sometimes on Google images. That's cool the way you do it, though! Maybe someday I'll have one that'll be like that.

Lilah Pierce said...

Random question: Have you been tagged yet? I can't remember...

If you haven't, let me know so I can tag you. Apparently I had it backwards on who's been tagged, and who hasn't, so I need to pick some new people :)

Jen said...

Have you done the next noun of T.J.'s Famous Friday Winner?? Be sure to check it out on friday! I made something special and it has your name in it!

Lola Sharp said...

Oh Jordan, how I loved you! (he kinda turned into an a-hole IRL with his band 30 seconds to mars, but he's still hot. they say his arrogance is off the charts. but he's still hot. those eyes.)

And CAM! *swoon!* Did you see his adds with Gap a year or two ago? Shirtless? SO BEAUTIFUL. Yummmm.

This was a fun post. :)
Love,
Lola

Susan Fields said...

Jackee - I think my problem is I've seen too many movies, so I have this endless catalog of actors and actresses in my head. It is handy at times, though... :)

Lilah - Sorry, I've been tagged. I'll hop over to your blog and let you know there, too. Thanks for thinking of me!

Jen - Uh oh! Should I be scared? I'm not sure I'll do one this week because I'm really trying to get the wip wrapped up before the weekend, but I'll see if anything comes to mind. I'll be waiting to check out your entry on Friday, though!

Lola - Griffin is way more Jordan than Jared. I've seen pictures of his band but haven't heard much about it. I'd rather just remember him as Jordan... :)

Darn - I missed the Gap ads! We Tivo everything so I rarely see commercials anymore. Sounds like I'm missing out!

Catherine A. Winn said...

Susan, just had to tell you. I did google "Teen actresses" and found loads of pics. I chose three actresses, inserted their pics in a word doc., and started listing the characteristics under the pic. Thanks for another great tip!

Susan Fields said...

Catherine - I'm so glad that worked out for you! And thanks for letting me know! :)

Kimberly Franklin said...

I love searching for hot boy pictures for my MCs. It's like my most favorite way to procrastinate. :)

Cam is hot!! Good choice!!

Susan Fields said...

Kimberly - It is the best type of research, isn't it? Too easy to spend waayyy too much time on, though!

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DL Hammons said...

I'm not sure why, but I did much more of this for my first book (which is currently shelved) and not-so-much for the second book. The characters in the second book are older (30-mid 40's). Hmmmmmmmm.

Margo Berendsen said...

I'm just the opposite! I don't use the physical appearance of an actor for my characters; I take a particular character they played in a movie and use that to flesh out my characters. So far I've used John Travolta, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johanson, and Ben Affleck. I'll have to think more about your method, though! Love that picture of Cam!