Friday, November 18, 2016

What Do They Look Like?

Eons ago, in another life, I was having a book discussion with my then significant other.  Okay, it was more like an argument.  He absolutely insisted that a particular character was a brunette and I was totally certain she was a blonde.  It actually got to the point where he stomped over to the bookshelf, flipped through the pages furiously, and stabbed a finger at the passage that proved he was right.  Well, I'll be damned, she was a brunette.  :shrug:  In my head, though, she's still a blonde.

And, for me, that's what it's all about.  Not whether the author created a character to look a certain way, but the way that character looks in a reader's head.  This is probably why adaptations of books for movies or television irritate me so.  I have my own concept of a character in my head and it never matches what the casting director has seen fit to put on the screen. 


As a writer, I understand the need to have readers see what is in my head, to describe everything exactly.  But I also understand if the reader doesn't adhere to my image.  I want readers to see what they want to see.  So, I try to describe just enough to let the reader come up with their own idea.  The only time I've gone beyond this, I think, is with my Once Upon a Djinn series.  I found a cover model who is the embodiment of how I see Jo.  (My apologies if she doesn't match how you saw Jo, but I needed a full frontal model for this series.) 

When you step in, though, you run the risk of changing a reader's image.  Humphrey Bogart will always be Sam Spade to me.  Gary Sinise is now and forever Stu Redman.  That little girl actress will pop up as Scout whenever I read the book.  Dorothy will always have the face of Judy Garland.  It is what it is, but I had different ideas of Stu and Dorothy before I watched the movies.  (Yes, I read The Wizard of Oz before I watched the movie.  Long story.)  Now, my original images are erased and replaced.  Which is kind of sad, but there's nothing I can do about it.

So, anyway, I hope I provide enough information to give readers a platform on which to build their own image of my characters.  I suspect for some it's not enough, but I can only do what I can do. 

What do you think?  Do you like everything described perfectly or would you rather build your own mental image? 

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