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Now casting: ragtag fleet of misfits

3 December 2010

No matter what a sci-fi story has going for it — cool spaceships, excellent science, lifeforms that can use arsenic in place of phosphorous (oops — no longer science fiction, that one) — it needs strong characters to be worth reading. You can have the coolest premise in the world, but if you don’t have a solid human presence or two for the audience to identify with, you really don’t have much of a story, in my opinion. (Note: said human presence does not actually have to be human.)

When I’m writing, I often play the casting game in my head for at least a couple of characters. I can’t help it — I’m a very visual person, and I usually see a scene before I write it. I also watch a lot of TV and movies, so it’s only natural that actors sometimes get cast for some of my main characters. I didn’t have one for Nick, the main character, but I had one for Christopher Lee the moment he popped onto the page.

Christopher Lee is Nick’s right-hand man. He’s a con man, a thief, and let us not forget double-murderer. Still, though he’s not exactly the nicest guy in the world, I wanted readers to like him, to root for him as he’s dragged through various forms of hell in the course of the novel. I wanted him to look somewhat unassuming so that when he did explode into violence, it might just surprise the reader — but I also wanted someone who reeked of intelligence.

The second I started writing him, it was Wil Wheaton as Christopher Lee. I realize that might be an odd casting choice for a convict soldier, but Wil was the only person I thought of who had a chance in hell of pulling off the disparate sides of Christopher’s personality. Watch his Criminal Minds guest spot sometime and tell me he can’t play both the nice guy and the killer. Here, he’d just be playing both at the same time.

So, what about you, folks? Ever cast actors, musicians, etc. when you’re writing a character? Or, who would you cast in your favorite book that has yet to become a film?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. jon helsel permalink
    3 December 2010 0738

    holy crap! wil wheaton is on big bang theory sometimes!


  2. 3 December 2010 0920

    Oh yeah, I almost always have a mental cast to play characters. Sometimes, it’s that a character just looks like the real person, without also sharing their voice, wardrobe, mannerisms, etc.

  3. 3 December 2010 1329

    I don’t cast actors, etc, when I write… I have enough characters in my life (and have met enough in the past) to steal their quirks and make them my characters’ own.

    Sometimes I think I try to give them too much oddness… kind of like some fashion advice I’ve read. “Dress in ordinary clothing, but also have one piece that is special, original, complimentable, to make the outfit. Don’t overwhelm with too many pieces of flare or you’re costuming, not dressing.” -paraphrased.

    I do that around my home too much as well… the decorating, etc, I have so many cool, quirky things like The Ex knife block in my kitchen: and the ’79 Capri promo poster I framed in my livingroom that my dad had saved from the dealership back in the end of the 70’s.

    I find that the throwaway characters are the hardest ones to make and have them be believable. I keep wanting to give them too much back story, etc. Maybe that’s just me.

    • 3 December 2010 1430

      Throwaway, or minor characters, are particularly tough. It’s like Matt Damon was told in “Ocean’s Eleven” — something to the effect of making his character instantly liked, then forgotten the second he’s out of sight. That’s not at all easy to do.

  4. Trace permalink
    3 December 2010 1617

    I cast people I know a lot of the time. I did cast Tom Waits in something, but I cast him as Tom Waits. So that probably doesn’t count.

  5. 3 December 2010 1736

    Ironic….I would have assumed Christopher Lee would be cast as Christopher Lee 😉

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