Nail Your NaNoWriMo #11: Cast Your Story With Familiar Faces

First… New Peer Review Submissions:

1. Brandon’ Pilcher’s fantasy short story, “Fighting For Food“.

2. A new chapter (2) added to Frederick Fuller’s romantic novel, “For the Heart’s Treasure“.

Please honor these writers with your feedback.

If you’d like to learn how to submit your own work for Peer Review, click HERE.  Or HERE to see what else is available for your review and feedback.


Cast Your Novel With Familiar Faces

Cut yourself some slack.  You’re trying to plan an entire novel in a month — a tall order — and then (an even taller order) you’re going to write it in 30 days.

We need all the help we can get with both aspects of the experience.

For me, nailing the tonality and energy of my main characters is always challenging.  While you can plan it, truth is they don’t really come alive in a visceral way until you commit that plan to the manuscript.

Here’s a little trick to help work-around any fuzziness or doubt when it comes to imprinting your character with edge and depth, and that add value to the many moments you are creating in your fiction.

Cast Someone You Know in These Roles

I recommend movie or television stars.  The more established and inflexible their on-screen persona, the better.  Cast your leading roles first, and if you like how this feels, go deeper into your cast of characters and do the same.

You can even use their names… until day 30, at which time you should do a search-and-replace to brand them with names of  your own creation.  You’ll not only have a face in your mind as you write (doesn’t hurt to paste a picture onto the edge of your monitor, either), but you’ll have an acid test that will help you nail their dialogue and possibly even their decisions.

It’s amazing how far, and how fast, this little technique will take you.  Because…

If your placeholder/actor wouldn’t say it, don’t have your character say it.

Let’s say you’ve cast a young Clint Eastwood as the lead in your thriller.  He’s under the gun, facing a critical decision, and you’re not sure what should come out of his mouth.  At this point you can ask… what would Clint say?  And right away you have a notion about what to write.

Clint wouldn’t say, “Well, I sure do hope this works.”

But he would say, “I’ll apologize later, if you’re still alive.”

One of the nice aspects of this little tip is that it doesn’t influence the direction of a story, because you’ve cast the roles in context to what you’re planning.  Once operating from within that plan, and if you’ve cast it well (which might include people in your life who aren’t famous… just don’t forget to swap out their names), you’ll have built-in personality and energy to help you quickly and effectively create dialogue and decisons that align with your plan, and are closer to the optimal “moment” than you might otherwise draft.

With NaNoWriNo, coming close the first time is critical.  Your story plan is a means toward this end, and this tip is a sure-fire way to make it work.


Filed under NaNoWriMo

7 Responses to Nail Your NaNoWriMo #11: Cast Your Story With Familiar Faces

  1. What a cool tip! I’m definitely trying this one. I can already picture Kim Kardashian as my main character, hehehe … 🙂

  2. I have used this trick in my acting for years, so it will be natural to carry that over into my writing.

    How do you keep from being too obvious about it? Or does it matter? Do you just slap a “this book was not based on any real person/situation/etc.” disclaimer on it and go?

  3. Casting my “movie of the mind” always helps a lot. It does more than give me a face and style. One of the best things about it is that I get accents coming through by word choice and pacing.

    A character who’s tough and old would come across very different if I cast Patrick Stewart, Ian Mckellen or Morgan Freeman in the role. Each of them has a different style of speech and delivery. The reader may not recognize the actor I had in my “movie of the mind” but will fall into a British accent if I wrote one in just by word choices and tone.

    The great thing about imaginary actors and actresses is something you pointed out in your article. I don’t have to imagine them as they are. A young Clint Eastwood has a definite style and so would a young Elizabeth Taylor, as compared to their later movies.

    When I cast people I know as characters, I ask them if they’d like to be in the book. If they say yes, then I may give the character their first name and description. Since most of the friends I’ve done this with are roleplaying game enthusiasts, they get a kick out of it and don’t mind.

    One friend critiqued my first book and loved all the characters but one. He accurately pointed out that a young psychic rebel was drippy and boring.

    So I said “Okay, would you like the part? Read it for me.”

    He did. Within moments he had me in stitches. I jotted down his lines and adjusted the scene to reflect them.

    So the drippy young man became the hilariously sarcastic young man and his appearance changed to suit the new character. I changed his name to my friend’s name and it’s an homage to him and a memorable rewriting session.

  4. Build yourself a talent stable of these folk. Might even associate them with some of the archtypes floating around.

    Always worth it as a starting point. Then you can assign other traits to fit your story.

  5. 1 L Loyd

    One writer says she does this all the time. Morgan Hawke, if you want to know. She has a list of about ten that all her lead characters come from. Then she changes names and appearances.
    I have had good luck doing this from my favorite comic book characters. Not what you see today, but from my youth. Which is actually good, since two of my favorites are Batman and Wolverine. They are quite different in my head.

  6. I think I had this basic idea in mind, but only what my characters would look like, or act like in a general way. To work with them on specifics such as dialogue and individual actions is a great idea. Will use it from now on whenever I get stuck. Thanks, Larry.

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