Monday, July 10, 2006

Portrayal Betrayal

I'm asked many times who I base my characters on. Or who I would pick to portray them in a movie.
My responses? No one. I wouldn't pick. Because I can't.
When my characters arrive in my head, they are a voice and a personality. And as I unravel the story, I begin to see details of them. And it's not always in "actor frame." Okay. Hardly ever. All right, damn it! NEVER!

Some people do take an actor and try to mold their characters around that actor. I think it's restrictive. If it helps you, great. But I don't like it.

Descriptions of characters are also tricky. Several people LOATHE the mirror trick. You know, a character stands in front of a mirror studying his/her self while the reader takes it all in and forms a mental image. Bleh.
Or there's the "that guy" description. You know...he looks just like "that guy" in the movie about the bomb on the bus. (Keanu) I'm assuming slightly exotic with dark hair and eyes.
He looks just like "that guy" who played an elf and a pirate. (Orlando) Dark, curly hair. Dark eyes. Beautiful skin.
But you can overdo the hell out of "that guy."

I don't believe in my heart of hearts that JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter with Daniel Radcliffe in mind. (Love Daniel, by the way) She had Harry Potter in mind. And Warner Brothers was left with the awesome task of finding the boy who lived through You-Know-Who's reign of terror.
Stephen King hated the fact that James Caan was cast as the lead in "Misery." He's made several references to it. NOT his choice. Not who he would have picked for the character that resides in his head.

But then there are the spot-ons. These are usually actors morphing their bodies to play a real person. They've seen the character on film or in person. And that is a hell of a lot easier.
Charlize in "Monster." Will Smith in "Ali."

In The Portrait, I specifically left out descriptions of my heroine, Sophie. She is everywoman. She could look like you. Or me. Or your neighbor. Or Julia Roberts. The reader has the option of deciding. I don't peddle any look in particular.
And sometimes, when I read, I substitute what I think the character looks like. And then I'm pushed out of the story when the author reminds me that NO. The character has green eyes...not brown.

It's hard for an author to take a voice and give it a face and body to match. To breathe life into an abstract and make in concrete for the reader. And sometimes it's even harder to translate that new look without irritating the reader with description overload.

I don't pick the characters. They pick me.
That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.


Bryan said...


I'm with you on this. My characters almost always create themselves. The one time I tried to maipulate it I wound up having to undo everything I did to him.

I do have a new character who is going to morph a little because I have a model who is going to pose for the cover (assuming first of all that I finish the book, and second of all somebody likes it enough to publish it, and third of all they let me put together my own idea for a cover).

Tori Lennox said...

Most of my characters tell me what they look like (case in point, my blond shapeshifter), but I have at least one hero who's based on Alex Krycek from The X-Files. But somewhere along the way, he became his own person. He still looks like Nick Lea in my mind's eye, but not once have I ever said he looks like "that guy". :) My heroines, of course, look like me. *g* Okay, what I wish I looked like. In the shapeshifter book I don't even bring up what she looks like. Of course, it's in first person and I hate those "look in the mirror" tricks, too. :)

Rene said...

I don't over describe my characters. I give a general idea but I want my readers to generate their own images. I don't pattern my folks on real people either. Hate the mirror trick, btw.