Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Art Of Backwards Casting


What is Backwards Casting I can hear you ask ... Well I'm here to walk you through my theory on it... I'm wild good that way...

Backwards or Reverse Casting is exactly what it says it is...

Anyone who has known me a while or visited this blog on a regular basis will know that I tend to see my books as movies in my head. Particularly at the planning stages I'll *see* key scenes and I almost always have a soundtrack of music these days too. So when I write, I write as if I'm watching a movie on a screen in my head. And I think that helps immensely with the flow of the story and deciding what scenes come next - alright - it doesn't always help me with the pacing until the very end but then that's just like movie making to a certain extent - right? Plenty of scenes have ended up on the floor of a cutting room...

So when you have a movie script completed and sold - you go out and cast the characters you think are best suited to the story, who best depict the characters and can bring a realism to the role. You go shopping for actors and actresses - yes?

Well when I start to think about a new book I do that in reverse... I START with the casting.

And what line I'm writing for can have an influence even at this early stage. (I've put up pics of my last Romance hero and my new Modx hero for you to compare) Sexy as bedamned and a little younger tends to be the look of my Modx heros - you have to be able to look at him and think YUM - he's irresistable - and that's just the way my heroine should see him (he'd be that guy in the street you'd nudge your mates to look at and would then fan your face as you walked past, you get what I'm saying???). Whereas my Romance heros pictures will often have a, well, troubled look to them I guess, or a far off expression or at the very least the photo I work with will be evocative of a scene I'll write - he'll look just as gorgeous, don't get me wrong, but there'll be a very different tone to him than to a Modx hero (think of a Modx hero as Hugh Jackman in Animal Attraction and a Romance hero as Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle) .

Maybe I'll simply have seen the guy in question in a movie or TV role where he just had the *tone* I wanted to him. Quite simply, he's inspiring... (for an example here's a clip to show where the first itsy bitsy teeny seedlings of inspiration came from on this new Modx I'm working on... it doesn't take much with me...)

Then I name him. I get out my little book of names and I flick through it until I find a name I think *fits* the picture - the same with a surname. Immediately he then becomes that person to me and I start to think about what age he is, what he does for a living, what his history is. (Characters sheets - remember? Only I've been doing it for so long now that unless it's a particularly complex story I'll keep most of it my head) I then go back to the start and begin the same process with a heroine. (and this is why I had so much material for the Hero and Heroine Databases - I'm never done collecting pictures, particularly after a film or a TV series where I've spotted one I think would make good characters in a story!)

So once I have them cast and I know who they are I then start thinking how did they meet - what do they say to each other in that first scene - and having seen them in action somewhere I have an idea of body movement and facial expressions... Then I think conflict - what holds them apart - what do they argue about - what kind of things do they say to each other that proves hurtful or reminds them of those conflicts? And I do this ALL in my head.

Yes, for me, the largest part of planning a new story is living with the characters for a while. Playing the movie in my head. Maybe even speaking aloud some of the heroines dialogue while I go for a walk or do dishes or muck out a stable. I like to have them really well grounded in my head. I won't think of every scene one after the other the way it'll appear in the finished manuscript, but I most definately play out key scenes. Call it a work based form of day-dreaming if you like... And it's something I've done for most of my life so I guess I was always headed in the direction of writing...

Only once I've spent this time playing the scenes in my mind and getting to know the kinds of things my characters will do and say do I actually sit down and start to write. So basically what I've done is the exact opposite to the way a movie is cast. Hence the term Backwards or Reverse Casting. Make sense???

And I can honestly say I believe that's the reason the characters and scenes come to life on the page for me the way they do. Because by the time I start to tell the story from one key scene to another I've already played out the *movie* from beginning to end...

So there you go. Feel free to ask any questions you want now that the comments are working again!!! And tomorrow we launch the competition!!!

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