Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Characters In My Head

I'm not a particularly visual person; I think in words and sentences, not pictures. I can't conjure physical images of people based on descriptions, and I can't imagine faces that don't exist. No matter how thoroughly an author describes a character's physical appearance (and honestly, I get annoyed if it's too detailed), the heroine and hero end up looking like a movie/TV star or someone I know. The same thing happens to me when I'm writing a book.

If I don't have a specific person in mind when I start a book, that person will sooner or later show up, whether I want them to or not. And once they show up, I can't get them out of my head. That person's image becomes a character in my head.

So I've started a book about a chick who's been playing professional fiddle since she was a teenager, and now she's almost 30. I don't have anyone to play her in my head, yet. I'm sure she'll show up.

The hero is a thirty-five year old guitarist who was once in the world's most infamous rock and roll band. He's been sober and on his own for four years now. This one was easy. The coolest rock star of all time, in my opinion, is one many people have never heard of: Izzy Stradlin. Sure, everyone knows Slash. Everyone knows Axl. What many people don't know is that Guns n Roses started falling apart the day Izzy walked away. Also, he wrote or co-wrote the best songs.

Izzy circa 1991

He had great hair

Then he got dreadlocks, which  I wasn't wild about

He still looks good at 50. Dig the threads. I always loved the way he dressed.

Funny thing is, as I write the story, Izzy's not talking and walking the part of the hero - which is fine. He's a reserved guy of guy. Long as I know what the hero looks like I'm fine.

The heroine's cousin is turning out to be a much stronger character than I originally imagined, and she looks, sounds, and acts exactly like Kaley Cuoco's character on Big Bang Theory, only a lot brainier. Not that Penny's dumb, but she's not a deep thinker. This character, though, is an actual geek. I love this picture of Cuoco, including the glasses and the expression, because the cousin is very sassy.

I think this is a sassy picture

Now, the fact that the cousin's character is walking and talking and gesturing just like Penny on BBT is not a problem. It's a popular show, but Penny isn't a uniquely memorable character with instantly recognizable quirks and habits and speech patterns, right?

Well, my problem is the heroine's uncle, who raised her since she was a child. His name is Jeffrey Diego Duncan but he looks a hell of a lot like this guy:

I think he's still married to Mindy. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you're young.

In my head, Uncle Jeff's walking around with scotch in a coffee mug, slapping his dumbass sons up the back of the head, and spouting all kinds of rules about life. I'm not letting all that get into the manuscript but I'm not gonna lie - it's been hard.

On the one hand, I've based the character of the hero partly on Izzy, and the history of his band largely on GnR; on the other hand, I've taken authorial liberty and besides, GnR broke up in the mid 90s and I don't expect a lot of readers to catch the echoes. (And no - Axl Rose's backing band is not Guns n Roses.) A whole lot of people watch NCIS and if I incorporated Jethro Leroy Gibbs' characteristics into Jeff Duncan, that would be lazy and hackish and, I don't know - plagiaristic? Is that a word? Blogger says it's not, but whatever...

So I'm working to give Jeff his own character. One thing he does share with Leroy--he's catnip for the ladies. Especially the younger ones. He gives in to them a lot more often than Leroy does, though.

Hey look y'all! I'm writing again. Weird.