On putting faces to your characters

In short, while putting faces on your characters is fun for you as the author, your readers often don’t like it. Everybody forms their own ideas of what characters look like, and nobody wants to have those ideas messed about.

On my private Pinterest account (no, you can’t find it via anything attached to my nomme de plume) I pinned a lot of actors’ head shots along with character names. It was so great to see the gang all together.

I pinned Paul Bettany as Alexander Smith. No, he doesn’t have eyebrows. In my mind he has everything else, though, and he can even bulk and cut nicely. I think he’s a competent actor who could play both Alex and Arthur, which is an important casting point. There are lots of actors who could play one but not the other (Jude Law, for example, could do a rip-roaring Arthur but is wholly unfit to be Alex). He could play both.

But alas he doesn’t have those signature eyebrows, and a reader and dearheart named Kathryn pointed that out. I asked her who she would cast instead… she had a list of names ready, including Paul Walker, whom I had looked at myself (until I found that picture of his mangled corpse). Some of the names seemed completely wrong to me. Then I looked up one Alexander Pettyfer, and “your ideas intrigue me and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter,” I replied to Kathryn.

He’s young yet, and in my mind he’s too pretty, but he will age. Nobody’s making movies of my books any time soon. If you’re interested, here is the picture of him that she feels best represents Alexander Smith. Goodness me, I appear to have written a hunk.

Anyway, that was a lot of fun. But about putting faces on your characters: probably better to keep it to yourself.

Kathryn did like Julia Jones as Anna Woods, though. “Perfect,” she said. I haven’t seen Julia Jones act (or Alexander Pettyfer), but I do like Julia Jones’ lovely black and white portraits.

So does Alex.

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