by Laura Anne Gilman
When I first started out in this biz, I heard a lot of writers talking about “casting” their books, and researching for visuals (typically actors, but not always) as part of their research prep.
And this struck me as strange (then again, I don’t create playlists for projects, either. So I may be an outlier.)
Y’see, I don’t ‘cast’ my books before/while I’m writing them – or even after, honestly*. It’s not because it wouldn’t be fun, or because I don’t think about what my characters look like… it’s just that I have to wait until they tell me what they look like.
Most of my characters ‘appear’ first as voices – their dialogue is the first introduction I get to them, and only after I’ve been listening to them for a few pages do I get an idea of what they look like, beyond nationality and gender. Hell, sometimes I don’t even know their nationality until they’ve been nattering for a while.
So yeah, even after the fact, I’m hard-pressed to say “oh, so-and-so would be perfect to play X” because X is – in my mind – their own distinct person.
(I steal individual traits like a magpie, though, as many random strangers and close friends can attest.)
The current project, however, seems to want to do everything differently. This project wants visuals, even of places where I’ve been or things I know well enough to have in my head already. And Story really wants to know what the characters look like, before we start writing them. I’m not sure why, but hey, what Story wants, generally, Story gets.
(this is generally a good rule of thumb, except when it’s not. But that’s another post entirely)
So I’ve been going through my various fandoms, watching old movies with a different eye, and generally trawling the Internet for faces. And in the process of finding I’ve discovered something interesting about myself: I am acutely uncomfortable browsing the internet looking specifically for a physical type, and even more uncomfortable narrowing down through an actor/actress/model’s portfolio for the very specific shot I need. It feels… stalkerish. Invasive. A little creepy.
Clearly, I would never have made it as a casting director.
Or maybe I would, because one suggestion was rejected because the actor in question couldn’t IMO handle the role. Physically ideal, but…no.
I suspect that if writers were able to make casting decisions, we’d see fewer “pretty” faces on the screen, and a lot more interesting ones…
Writers, what say ye? Readers, do you “cast” while you read? Do you ever find yourself disagreeing with the author’s description in your head?
(and, if you’ve read the Retrievers series, did the idea of a heroine whom nobody could remember long enough to describe drive you batshit? Because it reportedly drove my copyeditors. Up. The. Wall. *heee*)
* there are three exceptions to this. 1) Sergei was always written with Mitch Pileggi in mind. 2) Danny Hendrickson is – and this was pointed out after the fact – based on Tim Hutton. 3) I may have given some serious through as to who would do the voice for Madame, should H’wood ever come knocking….
crossposted to Writer. Editor. Tired Person.