When I read a book, it doesn’t take me long to cast the “movie” that plays out in my mind. A few choice adjectives and verbs, a page or two of dialog, and I get a fairly clear picture of the characters. I suppose that most people do the same thing, considering the cheers and upset that an announcement of a movie adaptation can bring once the cast is announced.
I always thought of her as a blonde. And shouldn’t he be taller? In the novel it was a little girl, not a boy. Nobody will ever be perfectly happy in these cases.
When I write, I try to “reverse engineer” the story, and I feel like it makes a world of difference in my dialog. I cast my characters just as if I were creating a film with an unlimited budget. I pick actors that are suited to my characters, and then I collect pictures of them and watch their movies. I follow many of them on twitter, to pick up their natural patterns and phrases.
I put together a notebook with their pictures, along with my own character sketches and back-stories. I also collect photos of places in the story, weapons or objects that each character has and uses. I keep all my technical and historical research in this notebook, too.
Why bother? Does all of this really help? YES!
When I write an argument or a quiet conversation, I want it to sound realistic. If I couldn’t possibly imagine the actor I have cast in a role saying something, I change it to what he might say. Some of the most interesting plot twists have come about this way, and I’m always a little surprised and pleased when it happens. Pictures are also a great tool for referencing eye color, scars, etc. to keep continuity and flow in the story.
I recently began a virtual notebook on Pinterest for my current work in progress. It was an experiment, as I have a hard copy of my cast in a real notebook, too. With the exception of a full character sketch—which I could add in notes, it’s worked very nicely. I plan to do this for all of my future novels as well. This should save time, paper, trees, and might even get me some input about how other people see these characters.
To the actors I’ve cast in my story, I’d just like to say thank you for acting. You are truly an inspiration!
To see my Pinterest Board, visit http://pinterest.com/kimblackink/little-black-dress-novel-research/
That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.