Friday, August 20, 2010

In Their Own Words -- Anne

Hi everyone, I just wanted to say thank you very much for stopping by and reading this series. It was a lot of fun and I liked the way it turned out.

I felt it was important to do this. My characters are ALWAYS talking to me. Sometimes, I think I'm possessed. And because I can't show you all of the book, I thought it might be nice for you to meet them, in person, so you could hear the way they really sound.

For anyone who wants to do this, on your own, or on the blog (which would be really cool), I think it helps to have a clear definition of what your character looks like first. Which is the reason for the pictures. Not only do they help you picture your characters in your mind's eye, they help with the clarity of their voices as well.

Now, some people can "see" their characters right from the get-go. I could only see Genna when I started. I knew she looked like Jessica Alba, and for the longest time Tony was a young John Travolta (from Saturday Night Fever actually.) This was also at the beginning and I was trying to write a true romance.

But as the story began to take shape and I knew I wasn't writing romance anymore, but women's fiction, I knew that my Tony wouldn't work for me through the long haul. And then one day Dylan McDermott magically appeared on my tv screen and wah-la, the real Tony was born.

When I posted my pictures of the characters a few weeks ago, some of you didn't really like Jessica Alba as my Genna. You said she was too young, her hair wasn't dark enough. I agreed. I really liked Jessica, but I always knew she was too young, hence, the finding of the new Genna. I like my new Genna, she fits the story, as well as my character description, and she's just absolutely beautifully perfectly Italian. Even though she's Irish.

Once I had everyones faces, I could also "hear" their voices. My writing became a whole lot easier after that. Kind of like a blind date: your friends can tell you everything about that person, but until you meet them, or see them in person, you have no clue. Sure they "sound great on paper", but until you know they don't look like Ronald McDonald, they're just a blur in your mind.

When the lovely and very talented E.Elle did this series on her blog, I was in total awe of her. I was jealous of her. I lamented that I couldn't do it, I couldn't try it, I couldn't figure out HOW. And then, once I got the pictures, for some reason, it all became clear. I could see them and hear them, found their mannerisms and their quirks. Uncle Sally's Italian. Angie's, 'I mean's', Aunt Fortuna repeating herself. We all speak differently as people, so should your characters. I'm sure if this ever gets picked up I'll be in revision hell for all my -- what'd'ya', coulda', I've got, and eh.'s

Don't get me wrong, this was fun but it wasn't easy. I worked on each of these sketches endlessly, sometimes right up until they posted, just to get their 'voices' right for you. (I'm a perfectionist that way.) I wanted you to hear what I hear when they talk to me. I hope I did a good job.

So here are the three things I've learned from doing this --

1) It's easier if you have pictures. And good pictures, not just stock photos. It took me 2 days to find Minnie Driver dressed like a "cousin at the christening" instead of a moviestar.

2) Voices don't fully form until at least half way through the book. They haven't done enough in the beginning, they're still flailing around, trying to decide if they want to be good or bad or mischievous. They change their minds and their attitudes. By 50K they've finally settled into who they're supposed to be.

3) And writing is truly a subjective business. Some of the comments you left really surprised me -- especially about Tony and Genna. Especially from the men. I guess this just proved to me why some people (agents) love what they read and some don't.

So thanks everyone for stopping by. It was great having you and I really enjoyed hearing what you thought about "my people". I really hope you all try this. It's not only great fun, but you really do learn so much more about your characters.

Have a great weekend.


Ted Cross said...

I have trouble finding any pictures that work for my characters. I kind of liked a mix of the thin but strong, dark-haired Jeremy Irons character in Kingdom of Heaven and Liam Neeson from the same movie for my main character, but I couldn't find any good shots that worked.

Jen said...

This was a very special series. I really enjoyed it and I'm so glad that E. Elle thought of it because without her a lot of us would forget to think of our characters that much in depth.

E. Elle rocks, as do you! I loved learning about your characters!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've just never seen photos of what my two main characters look like. Maybe I really need to do an extensive search.

Piedmont Writer said...

Ted -- Personally my pick for your main character would be Liam Neeson. If you go to Yahoo Images and type in Liam Neeson Ethan Frome, you might get a hit or two of him wearing a cape. It's not the perfect picture or time period but the hair is long and the cape is great. Plus I think there's snow.

Jen -- E.Elle does rock. If it wasn't for her, I never would have been pushed to my creative edge. Thanks Jen.

Alex -- You never know what you'll find unless you really look. Like I said it took me 2 days to find Minnie Driver. And 3 to find Fortuna and Sally in their "Sunday Best" together.

Crimey said...

Really enjoyed the series. Glad to see that the exercise helped you draw out the voice of your characters. Once I start a new novel, this is something I'd like to try.

Shelley Sly said...

I loved reading these posts, Anne! I'm sorry I didn't get to comment in time on Genna's, but I read it now and really enjoyed it. The new picture is great, too. Props to E. Elle for creating this series -- I'm glad it's spread around the blogosphere. So fun to read!

Piedmont Writer said...

Crimey -- It's really a great tool to use. It helps keep the focus on what's really the main focus of the characters.

Shelley -- No worries. I'm glad you liked it. Yes, definite props to E.

Amie B said...

your #3 is dead on. writing is sooo subjective. you never know who is going to love something. or when they will.

Anonymous said...

It's over already?! Boo.

You did a really great job, Anne, and you should feel super proud of yourself. Now that I'm getting some significant work done on my new novel, I may be doing a sequel to "In Their Words" with these new characters. In fact, last night, I found my male MC! Excitement.

I thought finding just the right picture was tough, too. I needed to capture the character, not the actual person in the picture. Definitely a challenge.

Thank you for all the kind words about me. (I'm pretty sure you're the first person ever to be jealous of me.) Love you, dear!

Terry Towery said...

Awesome series, and great fun! I may do something similar in the future on the new project (once I actually get some writing done!).

Thanks. :)

Ed Pilolla said...

i've never done what you did, and that is really dive into the characters outside the story. i think i would have benefited to do what you did.

Ann Best said...

That is so interesting, Anne, how you develop your characters. Personally, I just "see" what the characters do and hear what they say. I've never been good with physical descriptions, but I do give each one something that makes them stand out.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I'll admit I lurked as I read, but what a fun exercise to do with your characters! I love to get pictures for my characters, and I agree that it really helps them come more alive for me. Thank you for sharing this and putting so much into it!

Hannah Kincade said...

I don't like having pictures of my characters. Just like I hate when books I read have supposed pictures of the characters on them. I'm always disappointed and I would rather live with the pictures in my head. I'm weird like that.

I think this was a great idea and a very useful exercise.

Jayne said...

This was really interesting. I haven't searched for pictures of my main characters although I can see them clearly in my mind. Now I am thinking who could play my main characters? How fun to be the casting agent on your own film. At least it sounds like fun until you start to do it!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I agree. I just started finding pictures for my wips and feel that has really helped in writing my characters. :)

notesfromnadir said...

Writing and reading are totally subjective. That's what makes it so entertaining. It's also what keeps certain books in print for centuries while others fade after the 1st print run.

I think what you've done is a great exercise for understanding each major & minor character in your book. I hope this gets out to more writers who take the time & effort to do it.

Donna Hole said...

Dylan McDermot, uhm mmmm, I could stare at him all day.

My character's pictures change over time also as they matured in the novel and in my mind. Except Robert Crane, he was always modeled after my son. Makes my other kids jealous.

This was a great series, and fun to read. I've had to sit down and write character sketches too keep my characters in character. It does help to refer back to them.

Have a good day Anne.

Elliot Grace said...

...Congrats Anne on finishing up what was a wonderful idea.

Picturing your characters as public figures, be them movie stars, or your child's highschool football coach, leads to all forms of creative intuitive.
I thought McDermot was the perfect choice. Genna is a tough one...hard to find a picture that fits the face I've envisioned. Perhaps what I'm seeing in my head can't be replicated:)
In any sense, I greatly enjoyed this concept. You now have all of BloggerLand on a personal level with your story characters:)

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

What an insightful series! Thanks for sharing what you learned from the experience. I had a little light bulb, a-ha moment just now, as I read your #2. I've been so stressed that I can't get Julie's voice right in chapter one -- I'm crazy, aren't I?? I need to get deeper into the first draft to truly channel her. I'm right...right? So glad you wrote this out and shared. Thanks a million!