Just three weeks to go. Only twenty-one days. *gulp*
Hopefully you’re making headway on that to-do list and have at least the germ of a story idea. With time pressing upon you, now’s when it must be decided how much planning you want to do in advance. I will say if you’re looking for a detailed outlining plan, this isn’t the best place to get it. Kelley Armstrong has a section devoted to outlining in the Discussion Panel portion of her Writer Forum (http://www.kelleyarmstrong.com/cgi-bin/ikonboard.cgi), as does Jim Butcher at his livejournal (http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/). I’m sure there are plenty of other places online to turn for outlining help as well.
But, those things are for the planners among us. As I’ve said before, I’m pantsing this year which means minimal planning. But let’s face it, most people need a little bit more than just an idea before they approach that blank page (er … screen). One of the most important pieces, for me, is my characters. I don’t need to know everything about them, but starting with nothing at all would leave me staring at that beautiful, glowing whiteness for far longer than I can afford come November first.
Some people want to have every detail about their main characters in front of them when they start writing. This time, I’m going a bit more loosey-goosey. For starters, I’m only really concerning myself with three characters (I figure the rest will come as they come). The biggest things I need for those three are names and faces. I honestly love this part; it’s kind of like imagining what your kids will be like while you’re still pregnant. Only in this case, you get to choose all of it.
Names can be tricky. Some people will just slap on a name and go. If that works for you, that’s fabulous. I have this weird thing with wanting my characters’ names to “mean” something. So I spend a lot of time on baby name websites. And let me tell you, those things can kill hours without you noticing. If you plan to go that route, it’s a good idea to know as much about the name as possible in advance: what you want it to mean, male/female/gender neutral, origin, or even first initial and number of syllables. All those things will narrow down the amount of options you have to sift through. Of course, there are also the rare cases where a character’s name just comes to you and it fits them perfectly. Savor those and use them, because (at least in my experience) they don’t happen nearly often enough.
By far the most fun for me is “casting” my characters. My female lead this time was pretty easy. The story idea was inspired by a piece of artwork that included what would become the character. Figuring out who the model looked like (to get other pictures to work with) involved a bit more difficulty. Thankfully, I have a pretty good memory when it comes to pop culture, and I knew I’d seen someone like her before (I didn’t even bother looking until I had a pretty good idea where I’d seen her, and then the search only took about ten minutes). My male lead was harder because I sort of knew who he looked like, but I didn’t think it was a perfect fit. After several friends helped me hunt for a couple days, I decided to just run with my first thought because no one fit better. However, within that casting hunt, one of my friends ran across pictures that inspired a third character (as well as some little plot nibbles).
As soon as I wrap up my re-write, I will be posting pictures of these three around my desk. By the end of October, this wall in my kitchen will look like my high school locker did way back when.
So, my challenge for you is to think about what your main characters look like and figure out if you were to dream cast them, who would play their roles?
To get you started (if you’re interested), here are mine:
Ever (as of now she has no last name, it may stay that way) – Peyton List
Brendan O’Neil – Ian Somerhalder
(As yet unnamed guy) – Ryan Reynolds (specifically the way he looked in the last Blade movie)