Wednesday, July 28, 2010

who are these characters anyway?

Have you ever been so busy you forget what day it is? This week has been like that for me. This morning I pressed SEND and said goodbye to my cast of characters in The Colonel's Lady. Always a wrench:( Now my editor will be reading, reading, reading. And I hope she falls in love with them like I have. I won't see the manuscript again till she gives me her impressions. Prayers appreciated! When you set one cast of characters aside, it's time to begin dreaming up another. But who are these people, anyway? Often writers make a character chart or extensive lists and become acquainted that way. I rely mainly on research and prayer, asking the Lord to fill my head and heart with the people He wants on the pages.

I've started a notebook devoted to the people I'll be spending the next year or so with and have been writing little snippets down ~ a scrap of conversation here, a physical attribute there. And I have some fine research books to help me along. But it's mainly that mysterious little thing called inspiration that gets the job done. You really need to fall in love with your characters to bring them to life. And I don't know how that's done either:) But it's essential.

Sometimes it helps if you see a person and think, "Oh, that's him ~ or her!" At RelzReviewz, Rel brings to life story people in very interesting, inspiring ways. I invite you to come over to Australia and see what we've done with the people in Morrow's world. You just might see someone you know:) Better yet, you'll meet Rel who is an exceptional person and book-loving author advocate! Though chances are you've met her already:)

How do you envision characters when you read a book? Do you draw from a celebrity photo or just form an image in your head? If you're a writer, what is the process you use for character development?

For those who stop by here or there and leave a comment, I'll be giving away a pretty notebook and writing pen (for inspiration!) in a drawing. Winner will be announced Saturday, August 7.

Be blessed!


  1. I love the actress you envisioned as Morrow. I see the resemblance now!

    I tend to think of actors/actresses for main characters and just regular, ol' made-up-inside-my-head people as the peripheral characters. I'm surprised at your actor for the part of Robbie Clay. When I read it again I will envision him as OW. Love OW's voice.

    I know McKie was a Virginian and was supposed to have auburn hair in the book, but I couldn't help envisioning him as my favorite British bad boy who has black hair.

    Loved these insights into CML and I especially love learning about the notebook you keep for a WIP. I need to do that---too much gets jumbled up when I keep it all inside my head!

  2. Enjoyed checking out Rel's character spotlight. I have been to her blog many times for that purpose. I like to look at Trish Perry's blog when she asks the authors who they envision their characters being too.
    When reading a book I sometimes envision a character as having similar physical attributes to what I have seen before, and sometimes I just let everyone be faceless and enjoy the story seeing where the book takes me. It is odd how we just imagine someone by a description. I credit that to the authors. It's funny though, because in real life when a friend describes someone and you finally see that person it usually isn't what you pictured... at least that has always been my predicament.

  3. I'm excited about reading The Colonel's Lady. I hope you have fun with the next set of characters. Because of my mom's illness/death and am behind on my reading, so "CML" is still in my "TBR" pile. I'm so sorry, but I will get to it.

    Fingers crossed and prayers going out for "Lady."

  4. Love the pictures. Usually I hear my characters before I see them. I start by writing out list of questions, answering them, and then gradually they appear.Have a blessed week.

  5. I do like photos. I chose a couple celebrity photos off the internet of actors that I liked and could envision them in my roles. It really is good for me, because I then see what they look like and I can make sure I put the right attributes on them the entire story through. That is kind of a big deal for me. :)

  6. I just know your editor will love The Colonel's Lady!! My Mom is reading Morrow's story right now and loving every page!
    I checked out Rel's character spotlight. So much fun!! I love your picks for your great characters.

    I tend to look for old time photographs when I'm researching characters. Sometimes I just enter a bunch of physical traits and google. I imagine the character first and then when I see the correct image I'm delighted that there is someone that actually looks similar to my imaginings.

    Characterization is always lots of fun to develop.

  7. I love going to antique stores and buying old photos. I love it when I look through my collection, land on a picture, and say, "That's her!" It's fun:)

  8. I just imagine them. Thats one of the reasons why i hate movies based off books. Aside from the fact that they almost always leave out all the important parts, the characters never live up to my ridiculous imagination :( Please dont ever stop writing!!! Suzanne and I share books like none other, and since it only takes us like two days to finish one, well, we always want more.

  9. I envision characters by the description the author gives me, and then my brain fills in the rest :) Actors and celebrities never even crossed my mind until I saw that a lot of author's talk about which ones they envisioned would play their characters or who they used as inspiration. I really liked Rel's character spotlight, too! The actress for Morrow was perfect and the actor for Red Shirt is almost exactly how I pictured him! Still chuckling about that "cuddly armful" ;)

    And I just have to say, I think Romola Garai is so beautiful! She's the one in the pic on this blog with the rich wine colored costume, in case anyone was wondering ;) She played Emma in the most recent version of Jane Austen's "Emma" and is such a brilliant actress! Is she inspiration for one of the people you'll be spending the next year or so with? :D

    Definitely praying your editor will fall in love with TCL cast- Mercy, how could she not??!! I'm in love and I only know their names and hair color!

    Hoping the rest of your week is beautiful and inspired, with a bunch more little snippets :)

    Amanda Stanley

  10. Boy, this is a tough one to answer! I guess for the most part I just kind of envision characters in my head based off of how the author describes them and what their personalities are like. It's so interesting to think about what each person sees in their mind when they read! I love the idea that it's different for each person! :D

    As far as coming up with characters, that too can be a very unique process! It's so hard to capture the writing process in words. ;) I definitely couldn't come up with anything meaningful without God. The story I'm working on mostly started as one storyline and message, and then a lot of the secondary characters have just been coming along. It's so fun to write, and I hope that God will guide me through each step so that the story will be pleasing to Him and bring Him glory!

    Thanks for a chance to win the journal and pen. :) Any new journal would be much appreciated here! ;) I like using them for notes, poetry, and such!



  11. Believe it or not, I rarely picture characters in my mind - my 12 year old daughter thinks that is silly! She spends quite a lot of time picturing the characters she reads about.

    I think that is why I enjoy doing the spotlights so much and more often than not the picture chosen by the author fits.

    Great to hear you are all enjoying the spotlight and Laura's efforts :)

  12. I always enjoy Rel's take on characters. She makes me see them in an entirely different way. When I read, I typically don't envision "stars." I love to see each character as an individual - as their own self.

    As for my own characters, as a pantser I don't plan them out in advance. I've tried, but it just doesn't work for me. I learn about them as I'm writing that first draft. Many times I learn more even after the first, second, or subsequent drafts. Albeit the early drafts are thin, but I love to return to the manuscript & layer in uniqueness. Many people say that's backward, but it works for me.

  13. Rel is fantastic isn't she? I love reading her reviews, consider it a learning experience.

    Goodness, Laura, you had me spewing my milk this morning about Owen Wilson though :).

    Sometimes I do picture actors and actresses. Reading the Anne books I always picture Megan Follows in all the books because she just embodied Anne so fantastically.

  14. Remembered I forgot to write congratulations. I'm excited for you "sending" off your manuscript. One step closer to all of us being able to read it!!

  15. Well, I stopped by Rel's for the first time today but it won't be my last! How much fun is spotlighting a character?????

    As to characters I read and write about. I just picture them in my head...but they're more than mere physical images. The personality the author breathes into them creates so much more than an image. I don't know if I can explain it -- but when I'm reading, it's like I become that character, so I don't think about what 'I' look like -- 'I'm' always looking outward. Don't know if I've described that right.

    Congrats on sending The Colonel's Lady off even if it gave you a pang or two.

  16. I know who is in the first photo - Marie Antoinette played by Kirsten Dunst. I love the costume in that movie.

    So you've sent book # 3 to your editor? How interesting. You came to my mind last night as I was praying. Perhaps God knew you needed a little intercession from Tennessee.

    I can see my characters in old photos from my Smoky Mountain Family Album.


  17. You know, Mary, Morrow on the cover really does resemble Sophie Marceau, the actress, though I don't know how Revell found a real cover model like that! I must admit I don't know who Owen Wilson is but am glad he has a nice voice:) He just had that Robbie Clay look to me (not very appealing, I'm afraid) but maybe he's a great actor/nice guy?!

    It's so interesting hearing how each of us envisions our characters while writing or reading, no matter their physical characteristics (like your baddy black-haired guy):).

    The notebook I'm giving away is just right for keeping track of WIP stuff. I use one exactly like it right now. It would make a good journal to ~ or whatever you wish:)

  18. Adrienne, That is so true ~ the person you had in mind is not the one standing before you:) I've had that happen so many times and have gotten it all wrong, right down to the hair color and build, etc!

    I had a feeling you and Rel were acquainted. She is really a presence in the CBA scene, even halfway or more around the world! And she has a new post just about every day which is something I'd love to do as it's so fresh. I'll have to check out Trish as I've not heard of her before. So much interesting stuff out there!

  19. Bobbi,
    It's wonderful to see you here but am so sorry about your mom. I didn't know that and my heart is with you. You've had such a busy time of it with a new baby and then this sadness. Plese accept my heartfelt sympathies. And please don't worry about reading CML! It will always be there and whenever you post a review will be the right time.
    So appreciate your prayers for "Lady" as you call it:) Never sure how a book will go down as this one was my first foray inside my hero's head.
    Praying for you, too, dear friend.

  20. Colleen,
    That's so interesting that you discover who your characters are through questions! Every process is unique and as varied as we writers out there. It's an amazing feeling when we get a handle on who this imaginary person is and they become larger than life:) Only 48 more days till ACFW, dear Colleen!!

  21. Casey,
    You remind me so of myself. Yesterday after sending TCL in to my editor, I cleaned out a closet and threw out lots of research material from TFD. Felt so good to do something "practical" again:) And I found a folder of Mel Gibson photos as he was my prototype for Ian Justus:) Only when I wrote the book, he became less and less Mel for some reason and more and more the Ian in my head/heart. I think it's neat to start with someone in a photo to make sure you stay consistent like you said. And then there's this neat program where you can morph photos to come up with just the right look but I'm not computer-savvy so can't remember how you do this! Hope you have a blessed writing day today!

  22. Carla,
    That's so neat to learn that you google to get the look you want! Leave it to you to be so computer-savvy! I've not thought of doing that but it makes so much sense. Photos really do inspire us to get started or stay the course, as Casey said. I have to get over my Hollywood-phobia. There are some wonderful look-a-likes for characters out there.

    So glad your WIP is going well. Thinking of you so often throughout the day and praying!

  23. Kristen,
    You and Carla are of like mind. I forgot Carla mentioned old photographs. There are so many of them and don't have the Hollywood stigma I have trouble with. Great idea! Since I love to go antiqueing (is that a real word?), I see lots of them around. Though it always makes me sad that they belong to someone and now they're in a shop for sale!

  24. Kristina,
    Wonderful to hear from you (and Suzanne indirectly) here:) Bless you for that! I've often been disappointed with character picks for movies, especially. Never does quite match the book in my mind. We were watching Janette Oke's Love Comes Softly movies (one of them) the other night and I was thinking how well they'd cast the characters in that one, probably because they used unknowns to play the parts. But they work so well.

    If you and Suzanne keep reading I'll keep writing:) Bless you both today!!

  25. Amanda,
    Oh yes, isn't that 'petite cuddly armful' description fun?! I've always wanted to be that but am NOT!
    So glad you like the pics for Morrow and Red Shirt. I was going to use Eric Schweig, another native actor, for RS but Jay Tavare won out:) And I'd used Eric for Captain Jack last year. Since I never start with actual people to base my characters on, coming up with them for a spotlight is something of a challenge. Though my pub's marketing team asks us to do just that even before Rel does:) And Rel makes it so fun!

    I so appreciate your prayers and gracious words about TCL. This novel is so different than the first 2 (but I think I said that before with CML?). But I mean this one is REALLY different as I have 2 POV's for the first time ever. Will be interesting to see what Andrea thinks as she's such a fine editor.

    Bless you today and hope there's some sunshine and good books your way:)

  26. Laura,
    That's so funny that you feel that way about the old photos in antique shops, I think about that, too.
    I love to look at all of them and think its such a shame that relatives don't have custody of them. Sometimes I like to browse through them to see if anyone looks like they might even have an interesting story of their own that I could imagine.
    I love those old photos and antique postcards as well.

  27. Amber,
    It really is unique to see how we all operate with characters, our own or someone's elses:) You mentioned one very important point ~ that the Lord is really the inspiration behind everything we do, at least in the Christian arena, or He should be. It really is, as I've said before, His gift, His books, His glory. It's not pretty if we veer from that.

    Wish I could put a pic up of the notebook and pen. Maybe I will that Saturday when I announce the winner. Then we're off to a great August filled with good book giveaways ~ Kaye Dacus's Ransome Trilogy (first 2), Siri Mitchell's She Walks in Beauty and several more:)

  28. Rel, I have a 12 year old too (well, an 11 and 13 yr old as one just hd a birthday) and so I know what you mean:) Thanks again for the wonderful spotlight. Can't wait to meet again for The Colonel's Lady. Bless you for already penciling me in next year!!

  29. Amanda,
    Forgot to thank you for bringing us the name of the beautiful red-head above. Her very name is exotic! I didn't realize she played in Jane Austen's Emma. Another one to watch now! Thank you.

  30. Brenda,
    You and I seem to work along similar lines. I often start with next to nothing about the character. They are strangers to me. It's in the writing that I come to know them. In TCL, I didn't really understand my character motivations completely until the novel was finished. Then I had to go back and layer, add a few short scenes, and fill in the gaps to make the story and characters stronger/richer. Hope it worked! I love that part of writing/editing and it sounds like you do, too. Love that you describe it as "thin" in that first draft as that is the perfect description oftentimes.

  31. Julia,
    I got the biggest chuckle over you spewing your milk this morning:) Funny thing is, I don't know who Owen Wilson is but just came up with him by accident when searching for a blonde Robbie Clay. I'm guessing he's a humorous sort? Glad you read my book first before Rel's spotlight! That would have colored the reading experience for you, for sure:)

    And I so agree about their pick for Ann. Megan is perfect for the role - everything about her. There will never be a better Ann for me!

  32. I think it's only natural to envision people we know or are aware of, such as actors. If I really enjoy a book, I tend to cast it in my mind as if casting for a film, much like Relz does with her character spotlights.

  33. Good morning, Laura! I thoroughly enjoyed the character spotlight over at Rel's.

    I must admit I loved your choice for Major McKie, quite interesting. ;) Morrow and Red Shirt were perfect.

    When I'm reading I usually use the author's description or the cover art to picture the character. I don't often use photos when reading, now when I'm writing, I do use photos.

    Praying your editor falls in love with the characters of TCL, however I fail to see how that could not happen.

    BTW, to answer a question from the previous post. I have read Linda Chaikin's The Midwife of St. Petersburg. It has a spot on my keeper shelf.

  34. Kav,
    So well said. I do understand (or think I do). The personality of the character trumps their physical attributes every time so after awhile you don't even think of them as having black hair or blue eyes, etc. That's always how it becomes for me, too.

    I think real life is like that. One example comes to mind. I have an older friend (80's) who I've known a long time. She is very plain and has some odd physical characteristics, but she is one of the most giving, cheerful, generous, fun-to-be-around, Christ-like people I've ever met and over time she became just beautiful to me. When I hear her name or see her all I see is who she is inside and that's a beautiful thing.

    In this next novel, I have a better handle on my hero than my heroine (grrrrr - don't like those words for some reason - protagonist is better:) Only I'm not seeing them physically yet, just getting more a feel for their personalities. Or trying to. It's kind of like coming in the back door to me or doing everything in reverse. Will see what happens:)

    So glad you've met Rel! Her blog is GREAT:) And she hosts some of your favorite authors so you'd probably have fun digging in her archives!

  35. Carla,
    See ~ we really are kindred spirits:) I think antique postcards are wonderful, too. At least we treasure our old finds, even if we don't know their names or aren't related!

  36. Holly,
    Good point! It is very entertaining to envision who you would cast as the characters in your book. Looking at it from that perspective is unique. I would certainly love it if one of my novels was made into a movie, even a Hallmark one, and had input into casting. Endless possibilities:)

  37. Oh Britt,
    We are not only cross-posting here but cross-praying. I thought of you several times yesterday and hope you're doing well. I so appreciate any prayers from Tennessee! I need them. God is so good to bring each other to mind when needed.

    Thanks for sharing you the woman is in that top photo as I didn't have a clue as to the actress or the movie but now I do see that she is K. Dunst. Quite a leap from Spiderman!

    You don't need to look any further than your album for your characters. The area you live in is so rich in history. I'm excited to hear about your critters (I read your recent blog post) and that your WIP is going so well!

  38. Laura, I loved perusing Rel's spotlight! What fun!

    I am in the middle of CML right now...I know I missed the official tour week (hoping you & Revell will forgive me!). You have outdone yourself with this book, it's blowing me away! Loving every's a story to savor. :)

  39. Good morning, Michelle:)
    That says a lot that this particular one of Chaikin's is on your keeper shelf:) I'm still waiting to begin her newest Hawaii series ~ The Spoils of Eden. Let me know what you think if you get to that one before I do.

    Thanks so much for stopping by Rel's. She is definitely one to watch:) BTW, thanks to you in a much older post/comment you left, I'm off to research our buddy, Andrew Jackson today. And I'd love to get my hands on that love story you mentioned so may do that, too. Bless you, Michelle, as you read (and write)!

  40. Oh Ruth,
    So glad you are into the book and enjoying the story. You are one of the reviewers whose opinion means so much to me. And don't worry at all about being late to the tour, etc. No such thing:) I have a feeling you're still unpacking boxes from your move!! Wow ~ you've blessed me so much with your comments here and that means so much. Thanks for taking time for CML and for being thoughtful enough to tell me you're reading. It was a joy to write, a real labor of love:)

  41. He tends to play a character that is goofy and a bit of a well, "putz" maybe is the way to put it. If you've seen "Cars" then you've heard Owen (he plays Lightning). Chris and I sort of joke that he always plays the same character.

    We don't watch many movies either, especially since the kids have been born, except for Veggie Tales and the Pixar flicks. So I usually don't know who the actors are people mention in these features, but they are fun nonetheless.

  42. Thanks, Julia:)
    He even looks a little goofy (sorry, Owen)! But someone said he has an nice voice... We have watched Cars several times as my boys loved that movie in the past. Our tv broke this week so guess we're back to living w/o like we did the first 15 years of life together. Praying my laptop holds up. Bless you today.

  43. That's cool. We live the same way (without TV). Actually Chris' idea when we first got married from something we read in a marriage book. Then we moved into an apartment where cable was free for a few years, but for the past 6 years we've had no TV again and plan to keep it that way :). When the kids are in bed I read books to Chris instead which people think is bizarre :).

  44. Wanted to clarify I meant the characters came off as a "putz" at times, not Owen. For all I know he could be a perfectly wonderful person :). Wow, I need to get off...we're having guests over from Chris' work I should be cleaning but instead spent Noah's nap at the computer.

  45. Late again! I got caught last night trying to get registered for ACFW, and didn't get to check your blog!

    Laura, I think you would like Owen Wilson. One of my favorites is his role in both the "Night at the Museum" movies. He plays a miniature cowboy in one of the dioramas - and he's very sensitive about his height...LOL

    I started looking for pictures for my characters out of self-preservation, and found it was one of the best things I did. When I was at a particular sticky point of writer's block, and it was a school vacation time, I sat down with my girls and tried to find pictures to match the characteristics I already had described. It was AMAZING. They knew the "younger" set of actors and actresses, I knew the old, so we went to work and had a ball doing it. The really cool thing? Since I could then see and hear them--in my mind, anyway--I was able to add so much depth to their characters, even in dialogue. I would certainly do it again! I guess I'm more of a visual person than I thought....

    Rel's blog was fantastic. I love the idea of taking one character and really fleshing them out, so to speak.

    I know everyone will love TCL - and I can't wait to read it!

  46. Julia,
    Please don't worry ~ I know what you meant. My comment was less clear, however! That's the crazy thing about cyber-space. I'm always concerned that what I say not be misconstrued which is so easy if it's just words you're dealing with and not talking with another person ~ in person. Sigh.

    I think you'll find that being tv-free with little ones is a real blessing, especially when they're young. It really fosters a love of reading and family time which is irreplacable! And I love that you read aloud to Chris. What a gift that is! You're not the only one who does that. I have a feeling you have a soothing reading voice. Thanks so much for the dialogue here ~ I'm going to miss you all when I go out of town next week!

  47. Regina,
    Night at the Museum is one laugh-out-loud movie! I will have to look for him next time we watch. Since it's been a few years, I need a re-run and that is one movie I could see again because of the history/museum aspect.

    So glad you've registered for ACFW. Hope it was fun though if you're like me, it always takes time for some reason. Last year I got button happy and registered twice!! They graciously reversed the extra charges. Yikes. Can't wait to meet you in person! This will be like some sort of a reunion only we've only met in cyberspace!

    Really like your picture-finding day with your girls:) I bet they loved that! And the younger set does have a completely different spin on things. That would really get the inspiration going.

    Thanks for the kind words and prayers about TLC. This is always a pins and needles time for an author. But I've done the best I can and the rest is in His hands so am resting in that.

    Only 48 more days, Regina. Bring cameras! Leave laptops behind! Then we can have a girly gabfest for the first time ever:)

  48. Amanda,
    I always chuckle when you and Kav turn up again and again (or anyone else) ~ I think blogger likes you two so just duplicates your comments:)! Hearing from you is a pleasure anytime so x3 or so is fine by me, too:)
    Philippians 1:3

  49. I had never thought about picking celebrities that would be representative of book characters until I ran across this in some of the book blogs that I have been reading. I have always envisioned the characters in my own mind based upon how the author portrays them.

    Thanks for the chance at the giveaway!


    hspruitt {at} juno {DOT} com

  50. a wonderful posting, laura :)
    i love all of your characters!!

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  51. I love these photos! They really knew how to rock a side pony tail back in the day ;) and how did they do those curls? Incredible!
    I saw the 'movie actors for Morrow" I've always thought Sophie Marceau was so gorgeous! I think when I read Morrow I envisioned someone more like the girl on the cover. And ok...a young Daniel Day Lewis for ol' Mr. Red Shirt ;)it would be so hard I think to make a movie out of a book because people have "their" vision. Its fun to think about though and see what others come up with!~

  52. Always love the interaction at your blog, Laura - it is a credit to your faithfulness to your readers :)

    Thanks for the lovely encouragement, ladies, about the character spotlight. I do have a lot of fun putting spotlights together but the authors do all the hard work!

  53. Thanks so much, Rel! Already looking forward to next year:) Bless you bunches.

  54. When I read a book the characters just seem to appear in my mind. It also has a lot to do with the cover of the book for some characters. It's amazing that when you read a series the character you had appear in your mind is the same for each book.
    Have a blessed day,
    Trinity Rose

    wandaelaine at gmail dot com

  55. That's neat about the series characters, Wanda:) Since I'm set to do a series, I'll remember that. So good to see you over here! Please consider yourself in the drawing. Bless you bunches!

  56. Hi all, we just returned from fiddle camp but my laptop is still on vacation and so I'm offline for a few more days till it's repaired. My apologies for those who have tried to email me. I have very limited online access. I did borrow a computer however to thank everyone for entering the giveaway and to announce the winner of the notebook pen is...
    Holly (Two Kids and Tired)!
    Bless you, Holly:) Hoping to be back soon with an updated post about our 100 degree, hot enough to melt those fiddle strings, adventure!

  57. Oh, Laura, I'm so glad I saw your comment! I was worried when I saw that you hadn't posted in a while (I probably spend too much time on the Internet), but I'm really glad to hear that you made it back safely from fiddle camp! :D

    Congratulations to Holly, and I can't wait to read more of your posts soon, Laura!


  58. Amber,
    You're such a sweetheart! I've been missing you and my blog buddies:) Hope you had a wonderful trip yourself. Can't wait to get back online and visit! Hopefully my computer will be repaired soon. Bless u bunches, dear friend! And thanks so much for congrats to Holly:)