Cast of Characters


By Jenny Bullough, Manager of Digital Content, avid reader and pop culture omnivore

When you read a book do you ever cast the characters in your mind’s eye? Maybe it’s because I love movies and TV almost as much as I love books, but when I read, I can’t help but imagine the hero and heroine as portrayed by celebrities and actors, casting the book as if it were a film, to enliven the scenes as they play out in my imagination. Maybe it’s my immersion in pop culture but I have trouble picturing generic people, even if they’re very vividly described, unless they’re depicted on the cover. So as a kind of shorthand I sometimes end up thinking of a certain actor as a character.

Funnily enough, it has as much to do with personality as looks. Recently while reading a steampunk Western I immediately thought of Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) as the hero; not just because he has the tough yet vulnerable face the hero needed to become real in my imagination, but because his character in The Hurt Locker had a tough outer shell masking his inner loneliness, just as the hero was written in the book. The heroine I cast as Joan Holloway on Mad Men as portrayed by Christina Hendricks, because she has both the lush figure and, as Joan, the no-nonsense manner the heroine displayed on the page.

I once worked with an author who would actually send me magazine photos of the celebs she felt closely matched – or even inspired! – her main characters. We would end up having discussions related to character development that sounded more like a Hollywood producer and casting agent: “I see this heroine as more Kate Winslet than Kate Beckinsale, and the hero is totally Rupert Everett not Daniel Craig!”Oddly, it helped us both through the editing process.

So tell me, am I alone in this obsession? Do you ever mentally cast actors in the roles of characters as you read or write? Let us know in the comments!

11 thoughts on “Cast of Characters”

  1. Margaret says:

    I do this! The hero is my current WIP is a 50ish Paul Newman look-alike and I’m crazy about him!

  2. I do the same thing. In fact, I cast Christina Hendricks as the heroine in one of my recent manuscripts. But then I got the cover and the woman looked nothing like her. Now when I think about that book, the heroine looks like the woman on the cover, but she is still as ballsy as the Joan Holloway character.

  3. I absolutely do this. In fact, in the novel I’m editing right now, I’ve got Evil Blond Russell Crowe, Young and Incredibly Scruffy Pierce Brosnan, Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea After a Military Career, and Very Young Harrison Ford all playing roles. ;)

    Doesn’t always work for me, but this time around? Oh my yes!

  4. Angela says:

    Boy did you read my mind! I do this too. As I write, scenes play out in my head like a movie. In fact, I just blogged last week about who I see as my main characters for my upcoming book: Halle Berry and Olivier Martinez ; ).

  5. Lynn Crain says:

    This is number one when making up my characters. I need to have a visual before I can make them up. Or they will tell me themselves, “I’m like so and so with these quirks.” Now if that isn’t weird, I don’t know what is. LOL!

    BUT the reality is, I am a visual person and need to have that visual in my mind for the characters to work. No visual and my characters are bland, two-dimensional beings. For a more fully round character, I need to know what they look like and the only comparisons we have today are movies or photos.

    I have often looked at places like canstockphoto or istockphoto for much the same reason.

    What odd things we authors do to make our people come alive for us.


  6. Susanna Ives says:

    I’ve noticed in my critique circles that people like to cast Hugh Grant in my stories. While I think Hugh Grant is a wonderful actor, he is not in my mind when I am writing.

  7. Tia_Nevitt says:

    I usually get a very clear picture in my head. But for one of my stories, I cast Angela Bassett as the POV character, and The Rock as my villain.

  8. Jenny Bullough says:

    Wow, casting book characters is way more common than I thought! Thanks everyone for your comments! (And on a personal note: Paul Newman = SWOON!)

  9. All the time! I have a photo of a scruffy Hugh Jackman behind me on my bulletin board right now because he’s the model for one of my characters. :)

  10. Hear, hear on Paul Newman. The man was ridiculously gorgeous—especially when he had the Caesar haircut. *my lord*

    I definitely play casting director for my stories. My upcoming Carina release stars a hero who is half The Rock and half Jason Momoa (sans dreadlocks). Did I mention *my lord*?

  11. MJ Fredrick says:

    I always do! In both my Carina books, I used Jared Padalecki from Supernatural for the hero. In my WIP, it’s Sam Worthington and Bryce Howard. In the series I’m planning, I’m using Henry Cavill and the actress from Haven. I’ve done this since I was a kid–I’d cast EVERYONE, even the most minor characters. It’s fun.

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