You know what’s fun? Trying to match photographs of real people to how you envision your prospective characters. You get to act the casting director for your novel, searching and sorting through thousands of potential faces for the one that exactly captures the emotions, tone and personality of your character.
Toward that end I spent an hour recruiting Karl Rove and Toni Morrison, Penelope Cruz and Seal. Penelope Cruz was actually quite challenging; one rare shot worked, while the hundreds of glamor shots of her totally didn’t. Lauren Hill was pulled in a week ago, a striking shot of her when she was 18 absolutely capturing the attitude I needed, while dancer Daniel “Cloud” Campos was perfect for another.
What’s interesting is how the face and expression of the photograph subtly influences how you view the character. Adds layers that you hadn’t anticipated. Cloud gave the character he’s representing a more playful edge, more dynamic and electric than he had been before. Tony Morrison cemented the gravity and power of her character, while Seal gave his a certain nobility and detachment that he hadn’t before.
What deviled me though was trying to locate this one photograph of a Native American that I vaguely recalled seeing years and years ago. For some reason the attitude captured by antique portrait was perfect, and nothing else sufficed. I poured through my history books, found nothing, and then in despair began to trawl Google Image search. Nothing. I’d almost given up when I turned instead to websites archiving nameless photographs, and there, suddenly, it was. The harsh, beaten bronze visage of the Apache Kid, his eyes reflecting nothing, his expression severe and uncompromising. Perfect.
And so it goes. Is this necessary to the process of writing a novel? No. But it’s fun. It allows me to line up all the faces next to each other in Photoshop and gaze upon them, introducing them to each other in my mind, or at least visualize them as a tapestry that will compose the narrative together. Those faces become a spring board from which I’ll begin, and will remain a touchstone for me to return to if I ever feel my focus slipping, my handle on their personality growing vague.
Can you guess who the 8th mystery person is?