On Casting Your Characters by guest author Eric Griffith

Super big welcomes to author Eric Griffith. His book Beta Test is available for pre-order in print from Hadley Rille and will be available as an ebook next month!

When is writing a book like directing a movie? Sure, you pick the angles and make the special effects, but I’m talking about the important part—characterization. So I’d say it’s when you pick your “actors.”

I sat down years ago to start writing what would be my second completed novel, and I believed I was in good shape. I had an idea that some might consider overdone, but I thought I had a nice twist on it. Part of that twist came from the fact that I had a plot almost fully laid out—your basic “quest to save the world” story, but transplanted out of medieval fantasy to the present day.

I even had characters. They had names and jobs and wants and desires (at least most of them) and even descriptions.

But I still had no idea who they were and what they were like. I couldn’t quite picture their faces or personalities. And woe is it when I start writing and I don’t know the actors in the roles.

That’s how I have to think of my characters—actors who’ve been cast in the roles they were meant to play. It’s like knowing that Tom Selleck could have been Indiana Jones. He still can be, in your head. Or on the page. (Disclaimer: Ugh, really, Tom Selleck? Go Team Harrison!)

In the case of this book—called BETA TEST, which is out on Dec. 15 from Hadley Rille Books—my two main characters would be the opposite of most heroes and heroines. They’re not muscled or chiseled or in good shape, to be honest. On top of that, they would also be physical opposites of each other. And that’s when I realized I already knew the actors to play them. For my real-life friends, Dan and Polly, are that to a tee. Dan is a man-mountain. Polly defines petite. They couldn’t possibly fit together, but one look at them and you know they fit better than any two people should.

Plus, they’re both complete hams. Dan even ended up on the cover of the book, and now he wants “modeling residuals.” Uh…I’ll get right on that.

Dan and Polly fit the look so well I gave the main characters the not far-off names of Sam and Molly. I liked that extra little nudge, which told me every time I wrote a line of dialogue I must remember how the “actors” would deliver it. It’s like they were giving me direction.

Of course, that’s not how it works in the long run. As time wore on, Sam became his own person, who just happened to look like Dan (but will probably be played in the movie by Jorge Garcia…sorry Dan). Molly had to take a lot of different shapes in the book, quite literally, since at one point she’s a guy. Her way of talking, however, stayed the same to my ear, no matter how deep her voice got.

The rest of the characters were cast with a plethora of actors (in my head). Jack Black plays one character; a young Steve Buscemi is another. It’s the author’s prerogative to put his friends together with the Hollywood elite, or the least known character actors. Use your family, your friends, your favorite person in the background scene of “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.” Whatever works. And when the characters get unruly and stop doing what you expect, you can threaten them with instant recasting to get your way. Sometimes.

About the Author

Eric Griffith lives in Ithaca, New York, with his girlfriend and anywhere from three to five dogs, depending on the day. He writes features for PCMag.com but refuses to do your tech support.

Website: http://egriffith.info

BETA TEST for sale: http://www.hadleyrillebooks.com/betatest.html

Look for the ebooks for Amazon Kindle and BN Nook on Dec. 15, 2011!

About jlwylie

Stay at home mom of 2 boys, avid reader and writer. Published by Untold Press

4 thoughts on “On Casting Your Characters by guest author Eric Griffith

  1. Marian Allen says:

    Love this post! I do the same thing–cast my books. As Jen knows, one character is even described as looking like a young Peter Lorre. 🙂

    BETA TEST sounds like a hoot! Jen, let us know when it’s out in eBook, ‘kay?

  2. That’s an interesting idea – figure out your characters by thinking of who would play them on the big screen. My two novels feature an 84-year old detective who investigates crimes at sea. I had been thinking James Garner, but now I’m starting to think that Robin Williams could pull it off. If anyone knows his home phone number, could you shoot it my way?

    William Doonan

  3. I happily scored an ARC of Eric’s book at WFC. Now, as I read, I’ll have some images in my head.

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