The first order of business after I’ve decided what my next book will be about, is to cast the characters in it. I need to see them in my mind. Imaginary ones don’t do the trick for me. It’s quite the opposite, of course, when I read a book. It’s like I’m a sketch artist, taking notes of the author’s descriptions, until I’ve got a clear picture who I’m reading about. But, while writing, I need a concrete image. It’s typically very easy to pick the main ones. The girl, the guy, and the other guy. I usually have my mind made up very early who they’ll be. It’s when I delve deeper into friends, the sister, the in-laws, and the pesky receptionist at work that I sometimes need help. But, let’s first understand where I get the key players.
I watch a lot of movies. A lot. I love being taken away for one hour and fifty eight or so minutes, to another place and time. Driving around with people I’ve come to know very well. Watching them figure out the problem they have and solve it. And, it is while I watch these characters that my mind begins to wander to “what if”. “What if” the girl grew up in Maine instead of California and “what if” she didn’t have a rich mother/father, and “what if” she met so and so in a bottling factory while visiting an uncle, taking him his lunch, and not on a movie set. And, then so and so followed her home one day and found out she really was a….
And, so begins the seed of an 80,000 word manuscript. All from watching a character and making up an alternative story about them with the same characteristics they have in the movie I watched, but with a new guy. One that I watched from another movie. But, they have to connect on all levels. I take them out of what I saw them in and create a new storyline with each other. It’s like a love connection between two actors, playing in the role of the movie I watched them in, separately.
The problem comes when I can’t find supporting actors, I mean characters! Trust me, it takes major brainstorming to get this right. I, sometimes, have to ask advice from my friends. One friend in particular, Amanda, gives me some pretty spot-on suggestions. I relay what role the character is going to play, the color of hair they have, how tall they should stand, and a general age requirement. She does this staring off thing, sometimes hits a few keys on her computer keyboard, and then out spits the perfect character.
After I get all them figured out, I print out their pictures and tack them to my trusty character board that hangs over my writing desk. At times, I might need to Google movies they were in just to get another perspective of a character they might’ve played. I, of course, take liberties to change things about them that fit better in my storyline, but for the most part, I think of them in the roles I’ve seen them in and I write their dialogue for the movie that plays in my own mind.