Monday, October 31, 2011

Using Movie Stars to Develop Book Characters

Quite often when I do book talks, people ask how I get ideas for my story characters. I am always complimented when readers tell me my characters come to life on the page. Readers, and often other writers, want to know how I come up with the visual descriptions of the hero and heroine.

While each writer has h/her own technique, when I'm creating characters, whether it's the hero,
heroine, side-kicks, or outlaws, I go through a mental catalogue of movie stars. While sifting through this mental list, I also try to recall their voices, the way they walk and any unusual traits. For example, John Wayne had that wonderful rolling gait, that no one has yet to duplicate, and Sam Elliott has a very distinctive voice. I might add that I do my best mental imagining at night, when I'm supposed to be sleeping.

I’d like to share few examples of how I’ve used movie stars to create strong, beautiful, bold, bad-to-the-bone, and even quirky characters for my novels.

The hero-Cordell Bannon in Bannon's Brides, is a big man who rides a big horse; not necessarily an overly handsome man, his face and physical demeanor reflects broodiness, but he is honest and protective to the core. Once I had sifted through all my mental possibilities, discarding many of my selections, I settled on country music star great, Toby Keith. Every scene I wrote with Cordell Bannon, I would visualize Toby Keith. This made creating every nuance of the hero quite easy.

For the heroine in Bannon's Brides, I needed a character who was Irish, long red hair, feisty, and several years younger than Cordell Bannon. While she may not be Irish, and her hair isn't red, young and upcoming actress, Lucy Hale, fit the role of Fiona Quinn perfectly.

For a main supporting character in Bannon's Brides, I needed an older woman, with a strong personality, but not so much as to override the heroine. This woman also needed a sense of humor. No one fit the bill as well as the cooking queen on the Food Channel than Paula Deen.

In Isabelle and the Outlaw, who more perfect to play the role of the hero, Rafe Sinclair than actor, Hugh Jackman? Rafe Sinclair is a ruggedly masculine outlaw with an aura of dark mystery. The heroine, Isabelle Landers, is the exact opposite. A modern day college professor, Isabelle accidently walks through a time portal and is propelled 200 years into the past. She is quirky with a dry sense of humor, and a little bit feisty. I didn’t have to sift through my mental catalogue to develop this character, because I knew Kathryn Heigl fit the character of Isabelle Landers
to a tee.

In all the western movies, the hero’s had side-kicks. In my novel, Superstition Trail, there is a character named Teaspoon McGriff. Past his prime, he’s a man who spent a lot of years in the saddle, and he’s full of euphemisms. Most of you may not be familiar with the actor, Ken Curtis,
but you would remember him as Festus on the TV series, Gunsmoke. Thus, my old cowboy, Teaspoon McGriff, was brought to life using the persona of Ken Curtis.

So, the next time you pick a novel, whether written by me, or another author, chances are you may very well recognize your favorite movie star or TV personality.

Not wanting to infringe on copyright laws, I’ve opted not to use any of these personalities’
pictures. But, knowing who they are, I’ll bet you’ve already visualized them through your mental eye.

Happy Trails!
Loretta C. Rogers also writes under the pseudonym, L. W. Rogers


Elisabeth Rose said...

I do that too, Loretta. Not with every character but most. It's such fun imagining my hero and heroine in a movie.

Btw I always think that rolling gait of John Wayne's comes from wearing boots a couple of sizes too small LOL

Loretta C. Rogers said...

Thanks for dropping by, Lis. I had to laugh over your comment about John Wayne's boots. I read that when he started his career, he was very thin for his height and that he lumbered when he walked. It took years of practice for him to develop that rolling gait.

Carolyn Brown said...

Loretta, you caught me with my hand in the cookie jar. I do the same thing so that I have a face to go with the name. Many of my readers have a whole 'nother idea of who those characters look and act like though. Had a fan last week tell me that my heroine was her daughter-in-law!

Sandy Cody said...

What a great way to visualize your characters. I confess I use my friends and family (hope none of them read this). The one exception is an incorrigible old actor who I see as Peter O'Toole.

Loretta C. Rogers said...

Oh Carolyn, that's too funny. On the other hand, it could make the woman's daughter-in-law feel like a celebrity.

Loretta C. Rogers said...

Sandy, many times the stoic personalities of my heroes are patterned after my DH. I think it's great the way writers find different avenues to bring their characters alive on the page. Thanks for your comment.