I keep a scrapbook of sorts when I’m working on a story. Sometimes I’ll come up with a great line that I don’t want to forget but doesn’t warrant me hauling out my laptop to put in my book file. Or I find a picture of inspiration or reference that I need to save. So I find things and print them out and glue them in, or write them down. I guess one could argue that I could just scan the item into a file. Call me old-school. I like the feeling of the paper and glue and all the tactile things I use to represent what’s in my head.
My rule of thumb most of the time is if I use pictures for reference for my characters I try really hard NOT to use actors. Partly because the people I write about are normal, every day people, and Hollywood puts a premium on beauty, so my characters wouldn’t be someone that jumped off the pages of GQ or Cosmo. And partly I would prefer to you to see my character and not muddy that vision with whatever wonderful character the actor played on movie or TV.
So this is the album I have put together to represent the characters in my new work-in-progress, Sweetwater. Personality always comes from my head but when a picture is present there’s something about it that bolsters the personality’s voice for me. It’s probably a form of early onset dementia but I play with the toys I have. Here’s my little Sweetwater family:
Phillip — In the case of my book-in-progress, Sweetwater, I broke my rule. I tried really super hard to find just the right look for my character Phillip, the ex-Special Forces lieutenant struggling with PTSD. I wanted him to be good looking, but not pretty. He needed to look like he might have actually been in the armed forces somewhere. And he needed to be fit without being swol (ie super muscular). I looked and looked. I finally found a guy – the absolute perfect match to what I had in my head and . . . he was an actor.
Gahh! But can’t be helped – Clive Standen was my Phillip. If you watched History channel’s Vikings, you might know him better as Rollo. Good looking without being pretty – √. Looked like he might have been in the armed forces – he played a soldier on Doctor Who and looked good in his red beret and fatigues – √. Fit without being bulky – look up shirtless pictures of Rollo, yup – √.
Anna — You would be amazed at how hard it is to find a picture of a normal looking woman with naturally red hair that doesn’t look like she just got finished with her friend’s drag show. I’m not sure why there’s a lot of women that feel the need to spackle on the makeup. Its been my experience that most true red-heads require very little make-up to be beautiful. I found this model and I was impressed. She’s the right age, a natural red-head and her face isn’t drowning in foundation. She made the perfect Anna. Plus, she needed to have a sweet look about her to hide the flash-fire temper us red-heads all have floating behind our bright blue or green eyes.
Brody — Excuse the watermarks for Young Brody. I had found a fantastic picture for Teen Brody but couldn’t find a kid who quite looked like he could have been the younger version. Brody is that kid you knew growing up – the smart alec, always getting into trouble, rowdy, freckles, and super fun to play with if they weren’t tormenting you first.
He grew into that kid that was too cool for school, angsty, sarcastic and a little bit dangerous without him actually having done anything dangerous to deserve the reputation and that’s just how he likes it. Basically, Anna’s worst nightmare as a teen and someone only Phillip will truly be able to reach on a respect level. Thank goodness Anna and Phillip find each other, right?
Zoe — And then there’s the family sweetheart, Zoe. Beyond girly, she loves her whole family without exception, to the chagrin of her older brother. If you ask who her favorite people in the world are, there is always Brody first in her heart whether he wants it or not, with her Aunt Ophelia as a close second and then her grandpa.
But that’s before she meets Phillip. I can only imagine that when it comes time for Zoe to pick a life partner, he’ll be a lot like Phillip. And as they grow up, Zoe will be a sort of stand-in for Anna when Brody needs a super-dose of unconditional love. She’ll just be one of those people that has love to give and does so unsparingly.
Ophelia — And last but not least – Ophelia. Loves life and loves the freedom to live it how she wants. She has loads of creativity and her favorite medium is pastries. She’s a natural win with children and animals as they are drawn to her Peter Pan like personality. I won’t go into Phee too much as there is work on a sequel project for Sweetwater starring our favorite Aunt.