Your Novel With an All Star Cast

Few things stimulate creativity like speaking with a fellow writer. Recently, I had the privilege of spending time with a dear friend and fellow writer. She lives far from me, so even though we communicate regularly on the internet, it was a rare treat to get to see her in person. As you might imagine, a large portion of our time was spent talking about our writing. Throughout our short time together, I never stopped being amazed at how similar our processes were, and how we shared much of the same strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and insecurities. But, I will get back to that in a moment.

                In addition to writing, we both dearly love the theater. We went and saw a play during her visit. The production was beautiful, and the cast was stellar. It was a production of a classic musical, that I’m sure most people have seen at one time or another. So, naturally the after-show-conversation turned to the actors and their interpretation of the respective characters, and other performers we had seen play the same characters. Subtle acting choices can completely change a scene. But, the conversation on actors and characters brought us back to one of our writing quirks.

                We both “cast” our works of fiction. It is my understanding that this is not uncommon. Still, trading information on which actors “played” the characters in our imaginations made for very fun conversation. It’s also a very fun creative exercise. Beyond that, however, it made me think about the play, and how an actor’s interpretation of a line can change a character, and even a story.

                The obvious reason for an author to have an imaginary cast for a work of fiction is to have a clear mental image of the character. That being said, I believe it is more than that. I know that I always have a mental image of my characters that frequently differs from the actor I use as my model. Perhaps it is to borrow a voice, a gesture, a quirk of an eyebrow or a wide smile from that person that I can give to my creation. To imagine who would read my dialogue and how can contribute an added breath of life that wasn’t there before. Whether this is a tool or a crutch, I couldn’t say. I like to think it’s the former. But, it is a habit that I am not likely to give up.

                So, readers, I ask you; do you do have a “cast” for your works of fiction? I know that I have some favorites that I have used more than once. Do you? Who do you like to “play” your characters and why? I’m interested in hearing more on this subject. I look forward to your comments.