Casting Your Characters (Penny Rader)

Since we've been talking this month about who we'd cast to star as our characters in the event our book was made into a movie, I thought I'd poke around the Internet and see what I could find on the subject.  Below are snippets from a few articles about casting characters.  I hope you find them useful (and click the links to read the entire articles since I only clipped a few bits from each article).

Diane Lane Bing image

Advice: Casting Characters

“… typically I try to cast someone who I’m not super familiar with, because I’m looking for a physical model, not a personality model. So you should avoid casting people you know really well, like friends, classmates, family members, or favorite actors. This will help ensure that your character’s behavior is not influenced by the person or a role that they've played, if an actor.”

Robert Downey Jr Bing image
Cast of Characters (DL Thurston)

‘Casting my characters is a trick that I picked up when working on a spec television pilot.  It’s probably a natural extension of writing for the screen, but is less obvious in writing for the page.  Casting characters allowed me to see them in more depth.  Allowed me to impart mannerisms better than just having the characters as raw constructs in my head.  Since I've started using this trick, I've seen and heard of other writers doing the same, often to very positive effect in the writing process.”

 Casting Characters (Carole Bellacera)
Christina Applegate Bing image

“As a child, I was into paper dolls. Not those kind you could buy at the local five and dime like Patty Duke and the Lennon Sisters. Those were boring. I liked the kind I cut out myself from old magazines. I'd sit for hours with a pair of scissors and a pile of my grandmother's McCall's, and soon, I'd have a roomful of exciting characters. Of course, at the time, I didn't realize that's what they were—those stacks of paper dolls. This was just a way of entertaining myself—making up stories about these wonderful people I cut from magazines. I'm 41 now and a professional writer. But I still cut out paper dolls—from magazines, newspapers, sales catalogs—wherever I see an interesting face or intriguing body. Why? Because someday these people will become my characters.”

Mark Wahlberg Bing image
Casting Your Characters (Merry Farmer)

“So why bother casting your characters at all?

“Because whether you know it or not, writing is a sensual game.  You get the best results when all of your senses are engaged.  I feel like I’m able to describe actions and expressions and even motivations so much better when I have something physical and visual to pin them to.  In the past when I've created characters without knowing what they look like they've always turned out two-dimensional and lacking.”

Sandra Bullock Bing image

Character Development for Visually Oriented Writers; or, Be Your Own Casting Director (Kaye Dacus)

“Character Casting goes deeper than just finding images of people who look like our characters. Those of us who are compelled to find Real World Templates (RWTs) for our characters are looking for inspiration—for emotions, actions, and body language in addition to how they look. We use RWTs as one of many building blocks for character development.”

Characterizations: Try the Casting Approach (Steven Jordan)

“Like certain memory exercises, applying an actor to your characters is a good way of giving yourself a mental image of their character aspects, and how they would act or speak in particular situations.  If you know what kind of character you plan to create, and a particular actor in a particular role epitomizes that character, they become an easy memory cue to how to approach the character.”

Hugh Jackman Bing image

I Know Your Face: A Casting of Characters (Jennifer Melzer)

Lacey Brown Bing image
“Of course these castings aren't always concrete. Sometimes they change. When I first started writing Trystay, who doesn't physically appear in Edgelanders but will in future stories, I kept seeing him as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau with an almost Jaime Lannister arrogance and wickedness, but over the last few months, as I've actually started spending more time with him on the page, he’s mish-mashed into a cross between Coster-Waldau and Tom Hiddleston that works so well in my mind I want to just keep writing scenes with him because I can’t get enough.”

Keanu Reeves Bing image

Meet Dreamlander’s Cast of Characters (K.M. Weiland)

 “’Casting’ characters, à la the movies, is one of my guilty pleasures. Aside from just being plain out fun, it also offers the bona fide writing benefit of a real human being against which characters have to measure up, as well as built-in inspiration.”

Natalie Portman Bing image
 Screenplay Writing 101: Casting Your Characters on the Page (Will Stape)

“The IMDB … can operate as your casting central to help realize character development.

“Say your lead character is a youngish, Italian American. He is from the northeastern part of America. Why not visit the IMDB and peruse some vintage shots of the great Al Pacino or Robert DeNiro. Their roles in classics like The Godfather, Serpico, Mean Streets and Taxi Driver preserve youthful charisma. Browse over still shots of them in movies, recall their cinematic power. Immersing yourself in great films will offer up ideas for your casting challenges.”

Note from Penny:  You can find the IMDB here.

Jim Caviezel Bing image

Visualizing Characters—The Benefits of Fantasy Casting (Alexa Chipman)

“About halfway through a first draft, or before the second, I do a round of fantasy casting. By then I have written a character long enough to know what their personality is and what they look like. While using a rich internal imagination is important, having actual visuals to glance at while writing scenes can add a spark to the writing. I found fantasy casting helpful when writing sequels, or if I have not written a POV character in a few chapters and need to get back inside their head. Sometimes I fantasy cast for personality—that smirk a photo has, or their haunted eyes, but mostly it is for the actor who is closest in looks.”

Emma Stone Bing image
When They’re Dull as Dirt: Thoughts on Casting Characters (Stacia Rogan)

“I started actively casting people in the roles of my characters. I did so not necessarily based on looks but based on attitudes from previous roles I’d seen them star in or interviews I've seen. My main character is now embodied by Emma Stone. Do I really picture her as a fiery redhead? It’s not what I had in mind, no. But you can bet Emma Stone isn't going to wake up in the hospital and say “Huh, guess I crashed my car or something. Bother.” Physical looks are secondary but casting some sass should at least liven things up again.”


Z. Minor said...

Great blog, gave me lots to thing about. Helpful when I am writing as well. Thanks

Tanya Hanson said...

Indeed, lots to think about here. But before I do LOL, I gotta say I loved those little McCalls' paper dolls. My gramma too got that magazine! And right now, Anson Mount of Hell on Wheels is occupying my Perfect Hero inspiration. Good job, Penny,

Tanya Hanson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tanya Hanson said...

I deleted that post because for some reason it posted twice. Sheesh.

Penny Rader said...

So glad you found it helpful, Louise!

Penny Rader said...

Tanya, clipping pics of magazines is a favorite activity of mine. Now if I could only come up with a better way to organize all my clippings so I can find them when I need them. I love Pinterest for keeping track of online pics and resources.

And as for Anson Mount, well, yummmy. I love watching him Hell on Wheels. The last season finale was chock full of surprises and I can't wait to see what happens next. I've been fascinated by him since I first saw the show. I googled him and found a law-type series he'd been in a few years ago. I totally would not have known he was the same guy if I'd stumbled across it by accident.