Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words!

Do you have trouble picturing your characters? Or can you imagine the expressions they might wear during a particular scene? Imagining our characters as if they were in a movie can help us make them come alive. Before starting the writing process I develop what I call a “Character Collage”. I thought I would explain this tip so you can use it in your own writing journey.

What is a Character Collage? To put it simply, it’s a collection of pictures I gather relating to my characters. I usually do this while I’m plotting my novel and brainstorming my character’s personalities. It really helps to solidify who the character is and what traits they have.

I approach finding the pictures several ways. Either I have an actor or actress in mind for each character and then I search google images and find a picture of that particular person. Or, most often, I only have a vague idea of the kind of person I want to play each “role” in my novel. So I begin searching for someone who fit’s the image I already have in my mind. Since I write historical novels it’s very helpful if I can use an actor or actress already in period costume, even if it’s not the exact era in which my novel is set. One of the first places I check is, “Enchanted Serenity of Period Films”, one of my all-time favorite period drama sites. I go to the index of period dramas where there is a huge data base of almost every period movie available, both British and American. Most of these also have a summary of the movie and a few pictures of the major characters. I start clicking on each movie and looking at the pictures provided, seeing if any of the actors or actresses matches what I’m looking for. Usually, I manage to cast most of my minor characters this way and sometimes my major characters as well. If this site fails to produce what I’m searching for and I still have some “un-casted” characters, I usually turn to Internet Movie Database, where I can search actors and actresses by name, or by movie title. Most of the time, they have at least one picture per actor and if I find an actor/actress I like, I can use google images to find more photos of them. A few other options are using characters from television shows as models, although finding a lot of pictures of a character who appears very little in a T.V. show might be difficult. Also, using models of people you know personally is another idea, but you might want to get their permission first.

Searching for that particular picture that feels “just right”, is a lot of work, so I would suggest carefully studying the characters in the movies you watch, even the minor ones, as you might want to consider using them for future novels. I try to find pictures for every character, including secondary characters. Major characters (usually just my hero and heroine), I like to have at least ten different images, showing them in different poses or with different facial expressions. For secondary and minor characters, one or two photos will suffice.

After I have gathered the images, I either make a collage on Microsoft Paint, print the photos, and tack them onto a bulletin board, or copy and paste them onto a Word document. Then they are available when I need inspiration. Another fun thing I do is make desktop wallpaper by pasting a couple of favorite images onto Microsoft Paint and adding a background. Thus, whenever I turn on my computer, I have my characters staring right at me. This really gets my creative juices flowing.

These are only a few tips, and I’m sure there are many more ways to accomplish character casting, especially if you write contemporaries. I hope you found some of these ideas helpful, and if you try them, they make your writing take on a whole new dimension.

Happy Writing,

Your Turn – Do you cast your characters? If so, do you have any tips to pass on to all of us? I look forward to your comments!

This week we are giving away the book "Where Lilacs Still Bloom" by Jane Kirkpatrick. This book is an Advanced Readers copy as it does not release until April 2012. Included with this is a three pack of Bible Study Notes notepads to use during church or during your own scripture studies. This book and notepad set would make a great christmas gift or something for your own enjoyment. So once again, leave your comment and email information.

Congratulations to Jackie, last weeks winner of the Love Inspired three book set. Next week we have a Love Inspired Christmas book by Gail Gaymer Martin and a Christmas cookbook to give away, so stay tuned.


Jen said...

I would love to read this book. I have never read anything from her before but love trying new authors to me out!


Keli Gwyn said...

I enjoyed your post, Amanda. Wow! That period movie site you mentioned is amazing. I just added several films to our Netflix queue.

Like you, I want to "see" the characters in my historicals. I've found many of mine in the tiny black and white images captured in the old cartes de visite. Once I find a photograph of a person who captures me, I study the image until the man or woman "reveals" him or herself to me.

Anonymous said...

That's some really great advice!! Thank-you! When I write, which I don't do a lot, I usually just compile a list in my head of characters and try to come up with interesting facts about each. I realize that this is not the best way to do it! :) Oh well!

I would love to win this book!


karenk said...

thank you for the chance to read this beautiful story, amanda.

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Alexandra said...

I love meeting fellow character-casters!

I had about 3,000 images I had collected over the last few years...and lost most of them in a recent computer crash! Thankfully my best friend (and co-author) had a lot of them...whew. :-)

But anyway. Character casting is my favorite part of writing, honestly. :-) It adds *so* much to a character! One of my heroines was really dragging...just really 'blah'. And then I realized that she didn't 'match' with the actress I had originally cast her as and that she reminded me more of another actress. As soon as I recast her, it seemed as if she leapt off the page! :-)

I was sooooo excited to find your blog from Seekerville! I *love* meeting other younger authors!!! I'm twenty-two but started my first novel with my best friend when I was eighteen and she was sixteen. Nearly five years later, we have five completed novels and are just beginning our sixth. It's been a bit discouraging at times being quite a bit younger than many fellow writers, and so it's always such a blessing to meet other younger writers! Really enjoy the blog!

Anyway. Sorry for the long comment...but I just love your blog!