Hi folks. I’d love some of your thoughts here. I’m interested in learning how clearly other writers see their characters when they’re writing them. Do you have strong visual pictures of them before or while writing? Some writers hang pictures of people they think their characters might look like near their writing desks, for example.
I didn’t do that for Just Desserts: Greed. Lust. Death. Tiramisu. I knew my characters pretty well when telling their stories, but I didn’t spend too much time describing them physically for readers – or for myself. I knew their general ages and the kinds of physical activity they might realistically pursue. Other than that, what the characters looked like on the outside was less important to me than what was going on inside their heads.
Shirley was an exception because much of the story depended on her, uh, physical assets. And I described Lizzie’s looks primarily to highlight how she downplayed them in contrast to Shirley (although I don’t think I developed that as well as I could have – mebbee in The Sequel).
When I was doing the final edits, I read a blog post that asked writers to name the actors they would want to play their main characters in the movie version of their latest book.
That got me thinking. I don’t watch television and I haven’t been a big movie goer lately, so my coterie of known actor candidates is fairly limited. I found out what Justin Bieber looked like just last week. (If that’s not reason enough to cancel cable, I don’t know what is.)
How could John Cusack NOT play Vince? Yes, definitely – John’s the man. The vision of a bemused John Cusack putting on the chicken suit makes me smile.
As soon as I saw John Cusack as Vince, though, my thinking shifted. Not in Just Desserts itself, but in the sequel-in-progress. Seeing Vince as John, John as Vince, opened up different, possibly conflicting, directions for the story and for Vince as an authentic character. What Would John Do? versus What Would Vince Do?
I’m not sure that’s a good thing, at least for me. I think I want Vince to be good ole’ Vince, not Vince wearing a John Cusack mask. So, difficult as it may be, I’m sending John back to Hollywood and recreating my old, fuzzy image of Vince.
How about you?
As a writer, do you have a clear-cut visual image of your characters as you’re writing? If you have a visual image, is it a real person or someone you see only in your mind’s eye? Do you know what your characters are wearing, how long their hair is, their BMI? If so, do you describe these features for your readers? How? Why? Does genre or time frame of the story influence you on this?
As a reader, do you enjoy reading detailed descriptions of what characters look like, how they’re dressed? Do you set up your own visual images of characters when the author doesn’t provide them? Do you get annoyed when an author doesn’t describe what his or her main characters look like?
I’d love to know what you think. Enquiring minds [still] want to know…
Photo Credit: Free images from acobox.com