When I am writing a new book I always know what my hero and heroine will look like and I try to find a picture or a painting for my storyboard of someone who is a close approximation of each character. It might be an actor, or a model, or perhaps a portrait by Gainsborough or Reynolds. They are never perfect, of course, nothing can ever match the person I see in my mind, but near enough to fire the imagination as I am writing. I never like to disclose this model to anyone as I would prefer readers to form their own idea of the character based not just on looks but their personality, too.
I have been beavering away on a new historical for Harlequin and as usual I wanted to set up my storyboard with visuals of the main characters. In this case the heroine is initially considered "mousy" but in fact, when the hero (and the reader) gets to close enough to see her properly, he discovers her hair is the colour of honey and her eyes are grey-green, deepening in colour when she is rouse to anger or joy. And she may be quiet and shy, but she has a determination to match his own.
My hero, for once is not he dark, brooding type but fair. He is a Regency playboy, handsome, blue –eyed and fair-haired (well, light brown) . He has boyish good-looks, although with a certain world weariness about him. I searched online for a model/actor/celebrity who might fit the bill. I am sure you can think of several, and after I am only looking for a look, an image to help me visualise my character. Once the book is written the reader has only the words to go on and will imagine their own perfect man. So, at last I came up with a few pictures of a certain famous actor – arguably a modern day playboy, and I am sure many would call him boyishly good-looking. I printed out a few pictures that were most like my hero and began to write, but something didn't fit. Whenever I looked at my storyboard I just couldn't "see" my hero. Then, while browsing online for something completely different, I came across a photograph of a different actor, one I had used before but these stills were from a costume drama and I realised that this was my hero – or as near as a real-life person was ever going to get. It is only in certain looks, certain mannerisms that I can "see" my hero this actor, but it's enough for me to get on with my book.
So now I am happy. I can write my book, glancing occasionally at the pictures on my storyboard for inspiration, but I have no doubt that once the book is written, if I were to ask a reader just who, in real life, my characters most resemble, I would get many, many different answers!
How do you visualise your characters? Do you have a favourite image, perhaps a friend, or a celebrity who is the hero/heroine in your mind when you start reading a new book, or does the character grow on you as you get to know them? And why is it that however detailed the description on the page, we all see that character differently?
I'd love to know
Melinda Hammond / Sarah Mallory
THE SCARLET GOWN - Sarah Mallory - pub August 2014 Harlequin
A LADY AT MIDNIGHT - Melinda Hammond - available as an e-book on Amazon