Years ago, when I started writing in earnest, it was mostly fanfiction. A valid artistic expression and an excellent writing exercise because it focuses on story and making the story work. Setting, character and all already exist in a given canon for fanfic. Character description is often limited to facial expressions and a passing mention of hair color. No need for more because everyone in your fandom knows what your characters look like.
When I set out to write original fiction I spent a lot of time casting my Queen City Boys after I had my plots in order. Maybe as some leftover from writing fic I needed that visual, I needed to see faces, really know my characters. It was definitely useful, in any given scene, to look at the picture pinned above my desk and do description from that. And it was, honestly, an amusing procrastination tool. If I wasn’t writing I could claim to still be working: hey, I’m casting! Which involves scrolling through endless pictures of good looking people, win-win!
Eventually I cast even side characters when I was procrastinating. Still some choices were never quite right, but others were perfect. Steven Frazier from This Charming Man was easy. Here he is:
This picture captures him perfectly for me. His attitude, his beauty. It is is exactly as he looked in my head, as he came to me. Still the model in this picture, Dieter Truppel, really only looks sort of like my imagination of Steven. Half his pictures don’t suit at all, but enough. And really I only need on picture to cast from anyway (though finding more is joy, more pretty and more procrastination).
My editor, Annie, read a draft of the book, long before I shared any of my own casting. Much of the story actually takes place in her neighborhood and she keeps insisting that she sees Steven on the street. I love the idea that he’s out there now, living in other people’s heads and appearing as if I called him into being.
My character John Pieters appears across the Queen City Boys books. This series, as it unfolds spans four decades so that added a hitch to casting. I need John at 20, at 45, at 60. This limits casting if I want a picture at each age. I did finally cast John, though it isn’t perfect. I have such a clear picture of him in my head, at every age, of exactly who he is and I’ve never found a picture that was close. For John I cast like I would for a movie: good enough. But it doesn’t match my vision and indeed probably won’t match reader’s vision of him. I tried to write him so the reader could make their own John and decide whether he looks like Paul Newman, Daniel Craig, Alexander Skarsgård, Campbell Scott, Anderson Cooper, or Jorge Gelati. (Of all these perhaps that specific picture of Campbell Scott is closest to what is in my head, but no, still not quite perfect.)
The amount of time I spent on casting (*ahem* procrastination) eventually bled over into casting places as well. It’s all compiled, however inadequate, on Pinterest now. It was a great for me to visit while writing, to think about places (many of which don’t exist anymore since I’m writing about Seattle twenty years ago), and to see my characters all together. It made it much easier to spend even more time day dreaming about them. I’m working on the other books in the series, pinboards already filled with casting of upcoming stories, vast new spaces for me to procrastinate in.
And of course, because I am me, I am utterly ridiculous, and I find even more ways to procrastinate and play with my characters when I should be doing other things:
Because who doesn’t love anime? Or because I love anime anyway. In fact my love of anime is what started this whole universe in my head, but that’s a story for another rainy afternoon.