For/Against Mentally Casting People as Your Characters

Let’s face it, we all do it. You see a picture online and think, “Ohmygod, that’s [insert name of character here]!” I know I’ve done it. I once found my character, Scott, but didn’t know who the model was (for a long time, I did find it eventually, I think I’ve lost it again, though):

Scott :)

Scott 🙂

But once you have that image of a character in your mind, it’s pretty difficult to get rid of. In some cases, this works in your favour. In others? Not so much.

In the script I’m writing at the moment, I have cast my characters. I’ve even broadcast to the world who I want to play who! I find this useful; I’m using actor’s appearances to my benefit.

However, in prose, I don’t like to think about who would play them. Scott was an exception – I saw the picture, and gasped out, “That’s Scott!” It was just something that happened (it’s kinda scary how much that guy up there looks like Scott).

So. For: 

  • You can use the actors (or anyone else really, I’m just going to say actors as a general thing) to your benefit – eg, if you watch interviews, or actually use real-life people, you can add in things that only they could do with their appearance (eg if they look like someone else) or any ticks they have can help enhance your character (be very wary with this though. Remember you’re writing fiction. If you’re writing a memoir, go for it, but you still have to have their permission beforehand).
  • It can help you visualise them. Even if you don’t tell anyone else, it’s useful to you and writers rock so yeah.
  • It can help in conversations with other people about your work. If they can’t visualise your characters (eg if you don’t show them any writing) then you can say something like, “Oh, they look like Ian Bohen/Jennifer Lawrence/insert actor here.” Just remember that this will probably warp their image of that character.

Against: 

  • It can warp your image of the character. They may have a different nose, for example, or different coloured hair or eyes to the actor, but you begin to visualise them like the actor and eventually they become that person. Not something you want to do.
  • You lose the essence of your character. Your character is individual, unique, just like every other person on this planet – we’re not clones, we all look a bit different. Sure, if your stuff was ever turned into a film, someone would have to play them, but for now you don’t want to lose the individuality of your character. They are different in your mind. For example, I’ve found about 3 people who could be like my character, Alice. But they’re not – it’d be a mixture of them all. And that’s okay.
  • It can waste valuable writing time! Don’t spend ages trawling pages for someone who looks like so-and-so. You need to be writing!

Creating characters is real fun. You don’t want to shape them like someone already alive, when they’re a new person being born.

Questions, comments, thoughts? Shoot! 😀 

What are your views on ‘casting’ people as your characters? Do you ever do it? 

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3 thoughts on “For/Against Mentally Casting People as Your Characters

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