I’ve read that many writers will actually use celebrity pictures to visualize their book characters. I had never done this before so I thought I would try it for my new Western, “A Witness To Murder.”
But first, let me explain something. This story would feature a young girl who would befriend the hardened U.S. Marshal, Matt Kemp. I wanted to explore what Kemp thought about kids and if he even liked them. Plus, the townspeople of Vail would not easily turn a child over to a murderer.
So, because I had a “sweet and innocent” girl, I needed a ruthless antagonist that would have no qualms in killing her (sorry, I know that sounds bad but that’s the direction the story is going). Plus, I read the following line from Randy Ingermanson:
“THE STRENGTH OF YOUR STORY IS SET BY THE STRENGTH OF YOUR VILLAIN”
It was this line and the young girl that sent me in search of the perfect celebrity to depict Jason Pope, the antagonist.
Which Celebrity For Which Character
- I went on my typical Google search and started typing in things like:
- “Mean looking male celebrities”
- “Popular young actresses”
- “Female action stars”
As I went through each one I would use Google’s “Image” tab. Each time this gave me an incredible series of celebrity pictures. Now, I won’t include the actual pictures here for two reasons. One, I want the readers of the book to visualize the characters for themselves, without me overly influencing what the characters look like. Two, these are licensed pictures that I don’t have approval to use and I don’t want to face any kind of legal action 🙂
But let me tell you who I chose for each of the characters in this book. Please note that I did not include the protagonist, Matt Kemp, because he is the star of the series and I trust that I have described him well enough and I certainly don’t need any pictures (although for my own reference I do have a celebrity actor that I use).
I’ve only used their face because there was something there, usually in their eyes, that said, “Oh, this is who so-and-so is.” Although I will admit that it helped that the actress that inspired Meg had two guns in her hands.
As I’ve said, I needed a nasty, evil looking sort that you wouldn’t want to meet in the middle of the day, let alone in a dark alley. Do you know who Christopher Walken is? There was a picture of him online that was perfect. Although Walken is older than my character, Pope, there was a picture that had the following elements that I couldn’t take my eyes off:
Cold, ice-green ice that looked like they were chipped from an iceberg
A slight sneer on his upper lip that showed his hatred and disdain for everyone
An unflinching face that would stay calm and cold even while bullets were flying
When I found a picture of Angelina Jolie in her role of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, I had a dimension added to the character of Meg Walker that I hadn’t at first anticipated. In this shot she was holding two guns (automatics, of course) and I knew that Meg had to be the same, independent and dangerous woman as Lara Croft.
Lindsay Lohan, when she was much younger, was the perfect girl to play the part of Amy Lawrence. Her sparkly green eyes, freckles, and impish grin did two things for me:
Create a character that would get under Kemp’s skin
Be that little girl that would both fear and stand up to Pope
OK, not everyone I used is a celebrity. In fact, I don’t even know the real names that I used for the following characters. But when I stumbled across them during my search I knew I had “found my man.”
This guy was just the right mixture of goofiness, slyness, and “I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him” kind of guy to play the town snitch. And I’m sure you can imagine what he winds up doing in the story.
Whenever you’re researching your settings keep your eyes peeled for actual people that lived there if your novel is historical or even contemporary. I found an older looking fellow, a grandfatherly type, that had the looks I needed for the town’s sheriff, someone everyone liked and respected. Just what I needed.
I found another actual picture from the old west that showed a guy sporting the most outrageous handlebar moustache. And the way he had his hair slicked back was perfect for the part of an Army Captain who is more concerned with seeing his name in the headlines than he was for the safety of his men.
There are others but I didn’t take the time to find pictures as they made such brief appearances in the book. That being said, there is an Army Sergeant that has introduced himself to the story and I will be looking for a picture for him.
Something to be aware of as you’re writing your book is that characters will suddenly say, “Hi, you need me to help you tell this story.” And I absolutely believe that. For instance, Kemp needed an accomplice in the Army, someone he could trust and that would help him battle Pope’s gang. Thus the Army Sergeant strolled in.
Why Celebrity Pictures Worked For Me
If you’re writing a book, I would highly recommend using celebrity pictures, or any pictures, for your characters.
I always have them beside me as I write. If I get stuck, I have but to stare at the picture and let them tell me what happens next. They will talk to you…all you have to do is listen and write down what they say.
Pictures will help you discover dimensions about your characters that you didn’t know existed but that become intrinsic to your story.
They will also help you with the details like eye and hair color, mannerisms, and even how they dress.
But most importantly, for me anyways, they will help you with your character’s attitudes towards themselves and others…you can just see it in their eyes.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I’ve enjoyed hunting down celebrities. I wish you all the best in your own writing. Leave me a comment or question below and tell me if you use pictures or how you develop your characters. Thanks for reading.
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