When I'm getting ready to inhabit a new manuscript with a cast of characters, there is one thing I have to do before I can go very far with determining who my hero and heroine are. I usually only have a few basic facts about them sorted out before I have to be able to see them.
So I hit the internet. I scour through images of actors and actresses, models, musicians . . . sometimes even just stock photos of random people, until I find the one that is calling to me.
Once I have an image of this character in my head, I'm better able to figure out who they are, why they are that way, what makes them tick.
Take my hero from the manuscript I have out on submission right now. I knew his name--Quin. I knew he was going to do some really underhanded things in order to get what he needed, but I wasn't sure why that would be. So I started looking for pictures of Quin, so that I could figure out his back story. A clean-cut guy wouldn't do. He needed to be scruffy and have some sort of a naughty gleam in his eye.
Here's what I found. Keep your vials of hartshorn handy, ladies. Go on. Click over. I'll still be here when you get back.
Now, I have never watched an episode of Lost or anything else he's been in, so I didn't already have a character formed to fit this image. I was able to take what I saw in those dimples beneath the scruffy jawline, and figure out what his life had been up to that point.
That isn't always the case, though. For the trilogy I'm currently working on, I had three heroes to cast. I'd gotten far enough into my planning that I knew a little bit about each of them, how they would interact with their heroines and the like. But I needed to go deeper. I needed to learn more about them. So again, I headed to the internet.
The three actors I chose to fill these roles are three I'm very familiar with. In the case of the first one, some of his personality (or at least his acting personality) melded with the personality of the character I've created. With the other two, very little of what they show onscreen is what you'll see in their parts in my manuscripts.
It was a complete coincidence that they have all played characters in the same show. I only realized that a few weeks later.
#1: What a sweetie. Too bad my vet doesn't look like that.
#2: McSteamy? Yes please.
#3: And a little McDreamy for good measure.
I have to do the same thing with my heroines, to really get a good feel for who they are. I don't just choose actors for these visual depictions of my characters.
Do you need to have a photo of your characters in order to sketch them out in your mind? Or do you keep one handy as you write, as a reminder of their physical characteristics?