I can’t be the only novelist who fantasizes about one day seeing her characters romping around on the silver screen. It’s a joke, of course, so long as I continue to sell just about enough books to keep myself in coffee, but what’s the point of being a writer if you can’t make stuff up? Besides, because I approach the world from the perspective of an intensely visual person—even my story ideas begin as images in my head—casting my characters has become an important step in getting myself ready to write.
I work full-time, you see, on other things—and although I always plan to put in an hour or so at the end of each workday, too often I don’t get through an article on schedule or someone writes at 4 PM desperate for a file or a book or information only I can provide. As a result, every Friday requires me to reorient myself to my current characters and story. These blog posts offer a pathway for making that transition (one reason I update the blog each Friday). Editing previously written scenes and researching new ones also pull me back into the current book.
A third method involves pictures: photographs, paintings, maps that represent my characters, settings, or plot points. As I mentioned last year in “The Technology of Writing,” one of the main things I love about the novel-writing program Storyist is that it lets me see my characters or settings as Polaroids pinned on a cork board while I’m writing. I choose paintings for many of the minor characters, especially the wonderful historical paintings of Konstantin and Vladimir Makovsky, some of which also appear on this blog. But for the major characters I choose actors, even though I am well aware that if my novels ever do give rise to screenplays, authors do not get to pick their own casts.
Since I first saw Chris Pine in the 2009 Star Trek reboot, I have imagined him as Daniil, hero of The Golden Lynx and my work-in-progress The Swan Princess. He has the right look and, more important, the right devil-may-care attitude. But since sixteenth-century Russian noblemen did not run around in Star Fleet uniforms, for years I relied on pictures of Henry Cavill as Charles Brandon in The Tudors (also a worthy contender for the role of Daniil!). Still, it made my day when, while procrastinating—er, priming the creative pump—on the Internet, I discovered screen shots of Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince Charming in Into the Woods. More eighteenth century than sixteenth, but close enough. At one point, he’s even riding a horse. The joy of my weekend, thanks to a Netflix subscription, will be watching Prince Charming in action.
Here the poor man is about to get the boot (I think, based on the plot summary) from Anna Kendrick—who, although not my idea of Nasan, could be her in this particular shot. Woods play a big part in The Swan Princess, as one would expect in a novel set in the Russian North, and the dim light turns the actress’s hair to black, rather than its natural brown.
By the time The Golden Lynx finds its director, if it ever does, Pine will, alas, be too old for Daniil, who is nineteen at the beginning of the series and no more than twenty-five by the end. Some other as yet unknown young hot shot will have to take on the role. But for now, Captain Kirk will do just fine.
Images: Screen shots of my working file for The Swan Princess and from Into the Woods (2014).