My upcoming book finaled in a contest once, and part of the last step was to suggest actors who might play the roles in the story. This was difficult for me because I don't know the names of any actors under the age of forty. In fact, I don't know the names of many actors still living. Luckily my children were able to help, and I came up with a girl reminiscent of young Elizabeth, Ron Howard's daughter. (You see, I have to put them into a generation I can identify with!)

It's a helpful device, and I do it a lot in my head to help me imagine how a character would react in a given situation: what his face would look like, how he would sound, and what he might say. It worked with my current villain, who for some time didn't want to show me his personality. Finding him was easier once I attached a real person to my imagined bad guy. Even if the real one would never poison his way up the ladder of success, I've seen him in many moods: angry, sly, ebullient, and conciliatory. It's just one step more to picture him deciding, like my old buddy Macbeth, to take "the nearest way" and get what he wants.

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Comment by Pepper Smith on December 10, 2009 at 2:19am
LOL! Yeah, if I have trouble remembering eye color, I look back at where I first introduced the character. I generally don't have trouble remembering main characters' general descriptions, though.
Comment by Peg Herring on December 9, 2009 at 10:35pm
And then you have to remember whether you said their eyes were green or blue!
Comment by Pepper Smith on December 9, 2009 at 10:47am
You know, I rarely ever actually picture my characters. I know what they look like, in general. I can't pick actors to play them. To me, the important thing about them is their personalities. In fact, I generally think of them in terms of personalities, intangible forces that drive the story. Beyond the initial description when they're introduced into the story, they become physical actions ( shifting eyes, restless movements, etc) and verbal responses, controlled by what's in the mind. I have to remind myself to add in physical description, which is odd, because otherwise I'm a fairly visual writer.

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