Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sea Creatures and Hollywood Hunks by Sandra Ardoin

Writers put a lot of work into their characters, either before they ever start writing, or as they go along. For me, it’s a combination of both.

As I’ve prepared for the release of my Christmas novella The Yuletide Angel, I’ve answered interview questions and filled out media and book cover information forms. One of the questions I’ve been asked in this process is whether or not I chose an actor and actress as the physical representations of my hero and heroine. The cover design people want to get an idea of how I see my main characters so they can get as close as possible to the ideal.

Using photos of models and celebrities is a common ploy we enlist to help us describe our people even if it’s only meant to clarify the image for us as the writer. I’m not talking about cloning a celebrity so that his or her looks and personality fit the main character. That could lead to problems we don’t want to deal with. I’m talking about using things like coloring, height, and facial shape to clarify your imagination--to see that character as he or she walks around in your head.

I have a Pinterest board called Future Characters? where I collect images of various people. Not all of my photos are celebrities. There are old black and white photographs all over Pinterest of people whose facial features and expressions shout stories. I also collect images from the pages of fashion magazines. Even so, when I’m writing, I don’t necessarily “see” those people as my characters romp through the scenes. Usually, the features are vague. Maybe because I'm trying to be that character as I write.

Some writers choose not to disclose the people they see as those who come close to having the physical traits of their characters. They want their readers to develop their own ideas based on whatever descriptions they’ve used and not influence them toward a certain detailed look. There’s also the danger of a reader having a real aversion to that celebrity and, therefore, not liking the fictional character. 

One day, my daughter and I were discussing a popular actor, one she described as looking like a “sea creature.” (Really, I don’t get the connection, but …) When I told her I was using him as the physical basis for a character in a story (not the hero), she was appalled. **Uh-oh, I hope I didn’t lose a reader.**

So here’s a question for you. Do you think it’s wise for writers to pin images of character samples to Pinterest boards, or tell readers who they envisioned while writing? Let's get a discussion going. 

Do you keep a file of images that appeal to you as possible future characters? Have you ever read a novel, then been surprised to learn who the writer envisioned?


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On October 15, join me for a Facebook party to celebrate the release of The Yuletide Angel. We'll gather from 11:00 to 3:00 to talk about Christmas fun and food and give away a few goodies.

Sandra Ardoin is a multi-published author of short fiction who writes inspirational historical romance. She’s the married mother of a young adult and lives in North Carolina. Visit her at and here on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest.