I’m part of a book club that loves to cast the movie version of a book once we’ve discussed it. It’s an interesting practice because several of the ladies cast the characters of each book they read as a regular practice. I don’t generally do that, though I sometimes see a strong resemblance and then I can’t unsee it. But it’s not something I set out to do deliberately as I read.It’s the same with writing for me. I don’t necessarily cast actors or people I know in the roles of the characters I write, though I often pull bits and pieces from multiple people as I create the characters I’m working with. But I don’t sit down to work on a piece and think “This main male character, he looks and acts like Ben Affleck in The Town.”
I know other authors do that. In fact, a writer-friend of mine very sheepishly sent me an amazing document that includes all of her characters along with her dream cast to play each. She was afraid I may mock her (never!) but it was actually a fascinating glimpse into how she visualized each of these individuals as she writes them. And as a writer whose books contain such a large number of characters but still she manages to develop them all so well, I thought maybe I’d use her method to work through a trouble spot of my own.
See, the primary reason I’ve been struggling with my work in progress, aka TOWOS, is that while I believe my story concept is good, my characters are not performing well. They are going through the motions, reacting numbly as the world happens around them. Despite situations that should cause great anxiety or anger or some kind of feelings, my main female character is almost entirely apathetic.
What to do? I followed the lead of my friend and for the first time, I started actively casting people in the roles of my characters. I did so not necessarily based on looks but based on attitudes from previous roles I’d seen them star in or interviews I’ve seen. My main character is now embodied by Emma Stone. Do I really picture her as a fiery redhead? It’s not what I had in mind, no. But you can bet Emma Stone isn’t going to wake up in the hospital and say “Huh, guess I crashed my car or something. Bother.” Physical looks are secondary but casting some sass should at least liven things up again.
And I believe that’s what this piece needs. Because, honestly, it’s on its last major rewrite. I’ve majorly changed the story once. And then I made a major change to how the story was presented (POV). This will be my third rewrite since then. If I don’t feel a lot better about it after this attempt, I’m going to give myself permission to sideline this project for a minimum of a year and work on a completely new idea I’ve had rattling around in my brain for a while. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I’d really like to give this one a solid last shot – and I think this is the answer.