Sunday, September 21, 2014

Building Character(s) in Real Life

First in a week-long series exploring novels to film.

A few years ago, when I started writing longer stories and began developing the Morristown mystery series, I noticed my tendency to naturally break chapters into tight scenes that seemed more like scripting theater scenes than book chapters. I also found myself looking for photos of people who might play the roles of my characters, and as I built character files, I added images to give me strong visual descriptions for my writing. That seemed like casting actors for a play or movie.

When my male protagonist took over my writing voice, I had quite a few challenges identifying with his character, and visuals became even more important to my writing. I spent hours looking for my main character, J. Lindsey Calhoun, and thought I’d found him in this man:


But two aspects always bothered me about this image. He needed to have blue eyes – that changed from light blue to stormy dark depending on emotion - and I didn’t get that from this model. 

He also needed a multi-faceted face, with lots of changing emotions. One not too pretty, because my book hero starts out being fairly cold, even unattractive as a person, and someone intimidating enough to inspire a small army of protectors around the heroine and his future love interest.

Quite by accident, I found the perfect blue eyes on a friend’s Facebook page. These eyes belong to Jeff Bosley.


So I threw him into my character gene pool and connected with him on his social networks. Even better, I discovered he was an actor in real life, one who had pulled the safety net from under himself, moving to Los Angeles to pursue a full-time film career, and was promoting heavily online. His updates on Facebook and Twitter daily gave me more images to work with.

He could be a lawyer easily enough.


He scruffs  up pretty well too.


He has a humorous, even goofy side.
\

More important than anything, he can light up a room when he smiles, because that side of him is clearly described in my novel. It’s the effect the heroine has on him, and that softening is pivotal to his character development and to their relationship.


Yep. Actor Jeff Bosley could be the perfect J. Lindsey Calhoun when we break into film.

[ Clips from various upcoming films added 9/23/2014 http://vimeo.com/welcometoboz ]

Well, almost perfect. First I have to buy lots of stock in Dermablend to cover all that ink, and, gee, maybe a manicure? ;)


Yes, I’m writing this book beginning with the idea that we’ll end up onscreen. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve come at a challenge back-asswards. Probably crazy, but who cares if it helps me get the book written?

To that end, we have a #Christmas2014Challenge. By then I’ll have finished my first book draft, with the help of National Novel Writing Month in November. Mr. Bosley plans to score a leading role in a major film. (He works so hard every day, I have no doubts that this will happen!)

Do us a favor and help us achieve our goals, friends. Connect with us online and be our cheerleaders.

You can learn more about Jeff Bosley at his professional website (which includes videos), his official Facebook page, and on Twitter. Please promote him whenever you can. How cool would it be to have a famous actor playing the lead in my story in a few years? Very cool! 

March 13, 2015: Read Bosley's interview with The IF List founder here. buff.ly/1L72cQo

You can connect with me here, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Pinterest where I’ll update my weekly writing progress. Do egg me on – embarrass me into success if you must! I need your help, too, to build MY character as well as my book’s! Because, dang, it’s hard to keep at this some days. I need all the inspiration I can get.

Tell me readers, what helps you build your character profiles? Any unusual and inspiring ideas? What’s in your can of stick-to-anything tricks? I’m always interested in your behind-the-scenes motivations. Please leave us a comment!


Dani Greer is founding member of The Blood-Red Pencil, a member of Colorado Writers and Editors on Facebook, and an acquisitions editor for Little Pickle Press. She’s been involved with publishing off and on for 40 years. In her spare time, she swings a mean scythe on the high plains where she lives on a couple of acres with her artist husband, Michael, and too many critters to name.


20 comments :

  1. Having flesh-and-blood models for specific characters rather than all-in-your-head types grounds characters in a reality that isn't so likely to be twisted and tweaked into a different being midway through the story. It also helps the writer create a solid three-dimensional "person" for the reader to envision. While I've not to date singled out one individual as any of my characters, I have borrowed attributes from various acquaintances (and even strangers I've observed) to build my sketches, which include family histories, food preferences, likes and dislikes in the opposite sex, education, physical attributes, personality traits, idiosyncrasies, and the list goes on. Not all these appear in the story, but they keep the character individualized for me as I write. However, I can see the advantage of having a go-to person who embodies a number of these qualities and whose appearance (and eye color) remains consistent throughout the book.

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    1. Next on my list is the heroine, Megan MacGregor. Tall red-head with green eyes, but with a certain look that I haven't found yet. My character sketch for her is a short book in itself!

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  2. Although my husband is constantly asking when someone will buy the movie rights to any of my books, I've never thought about casting them. In fact, if someone asks me that "who would play XXX in a movie?" I never have an answer. Of course, not going to the movies might play a part. I did base a few of my earlier characters on television stars (I was writing fan fiction, after all, and it carried over), but mostly I make 'em up. It looks like you've given a lot of thought to your characters, and it's probably smart to have some images available when writing. I'll have to give it a try.

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    1. You know, Terry, I don't watch many movies either, but part of my motivation for these books is getting a few messages into the world that are important to me. Words are more powerful than paintings, but I think words in music and onscreen are even more powerful. I'm shooting for the biggest audience, against all odds I know. To that end, I'm buying a TV today, and collecting DVDs. Oh, my!

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  3. Dani, did you hack into my iCloud picture files?

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    1. Christopher, what would we do without your humor around here?! I hope you're using it in your writing - you are truly gifted! :D

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  5. I've only thought of one actor for one of my characters, but I see what I want them to look like. I've never been able to match them up. Bosley sure is versatile.

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    1. His ability to portray a wide range of ages is pretty amazing!

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  6. I think most writers have imagined their story on the silver screen. I know I did. I could see the potential for marketing: jewelry, costumes, video games, even a theme park. If you have that much passion for the story, it will translate to the page. If you aren't passionate about your characters and plot, why should your audience be?

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    1. I'm probably most passionate about the messages as related to society as a whole. Theme is the biggie for me. The characters and the plot support that though.

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  7. I had pictures of models that resembled what I thought Sarah and Angel from my Seasons Mystery Series would look like in real life. Then I interviewed a young black woman detective on the Dallas force, and she became the Angel in my book. Now both characters are so firmly set in my consciousness I don't need the pictures and I don't even know where they are. LOL I would love Halle Berry to play her in the movie or TV series.

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    1. I'm curious, Maryann. Does your publisher go for the movie angle? I'm wondering if we have another little series started related to film rights in publishing contracts.

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  8. Interesting idea, and a good one! I always make up visions of characters in my head and have never really based them on anyone. Maybe I should. Thanks for the great post!

    Mary Montague Sikes

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    1. Another tip for finding faces - go to PInterest! I'm researching "red-headed women" over there now and building a file for my heroine.

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  9. Hey, great convo, everyone. I'll drop back in when I get to the city and pick up wi-fi. Keep yacking!

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  10. Raising a glass Manitou Brewing Co. Burro Brown Ale to the whole team! Slainte.

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  11. I don't have any unique tricks, but I do like to insert photos into my WriteWay program on each of my character's sheets. I try to find several, in different clothing types, in different poses, and it does help imagine the character in the scene.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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