Sunday, August 21, 2011

Starring . . .

Do you imagine who you would like to play your characters on the big screen? I do. In fact, in my novel, Broken Dolls, I so imagined Ken Watanabe as Papa that I re-wrote the character to give him a bigger role in my "movie." Mr. Watanabe is so perfect for Papa, I couldn't bring myself to kill him off in the first quarter of the book as was originally written.

Here is an excerpt that describes Papa. In this scene, 8-year old Sachi has just heard news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. She asks Papa about her brother, Taro, who is working in the sugar cane fields in Hawaii:

     Words blared from the radio and pounded like a drum against the tension in the room: The surprise attack has destroyed a large part of the U.S. Naval Fleet, and the casualties are expected to be in the thousands.
     “Papa? Is Taro-nisan okay?”
     The lines in Papa’s brow softened and his eyes crinkled as he smiled and reached for her. She ran to him and snuggled into his open arms, comforted by the scent of cedar incense on his shirt.
     “We have not been able to reach him yet,” he said.
     Mama stared out the window, her eyes sad and dark, her lips pressed tight.
     “What’s wrong, Mama?” Sachi asked.
     Her mother straightened in the chair and took a deep breath. “Sachiko, please go and practice your dance lessons now. Mrs. Thompson will be here soon.”
     Sachi slumped in Papa’s lap and whined. “Dance lessons? On Sunday?”
     “Do not argue,” her mother scolded. “Mrs. Thompson was kind enough to let you make up the lesson you missed last week.”
     Papa hugged Sachi, then shoved her off to the dance room.

Finding a person whose image so clearly represents my character helps me with my character development. With Mr. Watanabe, it was not only his physical description that aided me in my description of Papa, but also the honor, kindness, even mystery he has portrayed in many of his roles, such as Katsumoto in The Last Samurai and The Chairman in Memoirs of a Geisha.

Who do you imagine as your characters? Leave a comment and share an excerpt of one of your characters. Who do you imagine "starring" in the role of that character?


  1. A very good choice, Jan. I can picture Mr. Watanabe as Papa.

    I see Jake Gyllenhaal as Dwight in Redneck Ex and I picture Sara Rue as Caroline in Santorini Sunset. I also have a soundtrack in mind for both movies. I figure it's a really good idea to have all those things worked out when Hollywood calls. Less work for them. That way the movie can be released on the 1st anniversary of the books hitting the shelves. :-)

  2. @Claire, Jake Gyllenhaal is a perfect Dwight, with just the right spark of animal magnetism and mischief! And I looked up a photo of Sara Rue - yes, she is definitely Caroline. Poignant, yet funny. See you on the Red Carpet!

  3. I can see Viggo Mortensen as Truman Thorson in Devil's Backbone. He's shown the right combination of toughness and tenderness that he could do the job.

  4. @Duke, excellent choice! Now I have someone to imagine as I listen to more of Devil's Backbone, which will be . . . when? :)

  5. Since April Grace is a child, and child actors have a habit of growing up, (darn it) I haven't given much thought to who would play her. However, I think Wendy Malick or Christine Baranski would make a perfect Isabel St. James, all snooty and prissy.

  6. @K.D., from the book trailer of "In Front of God and Everybody," I think Wendy Malick would make the perfect Isabel. I can't wait to read the book!

  7. I loved your remark that you couldn't kill off a character in the first quarter of the book because you pictured him as looking like Ken Watanabe. I once had to change who my villain was going to be, because I, too, fell in love with a character.
    Jackie King

  8. Hmmm, this is something I hadn't thought of. Off the top of my head, I can't imagine anyone yet. I'll have to think about it. Good question!

  9. In one of my novels that has been around for years, the woman I pictured to do the part is now way too old for it. Just shows to go you, huh? Loved this blog, though, Jan. Brad Pitt, Brad Pitt. Hmm. Better write a book he could be in, but he'll get old too, won't he?

  10. Larry the Cable Guy was the obvious choice the voice of the GPS in "Redneck GPS"

  11. @Jackie, I'm glad I'm not the only one who falls in love with my characters. :)

    @Madison, I can't wait to see who you choose for your fascinating lead characters!

    @Velda, now there's a great idea - choose the actor FIRST, then write the character around him!

    @Russell, perfect! But then, nobody could read your characters as well as you do.

  12. Am I too late to play here? I wrote 'Murderous' for Kathleen Turner and Cloris Leachman.

  13. @mgmillerbooks - perfect casting! It made listening to "Murderous" last night even MORE interesting, now that I could picture your characters. A movie in the making . . .