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Find your cast: A tip to develop characters

We all do it.

Maybe even before we put a pen to paper, we fantasize how our story might translate to the big (or small) screen. We might picture Maisie Williams as our protagonist, or Donald Glover as our leading man. It's fun to imagine our work's manifestation into something easily consumed by such a wide audience. But what if those fantasies could make you write a better book?

Early on, I don't usually know what my characters look like, but when I get to pinning down a physical description, I start with what I think of as Casting.

Here are five steps cast your characters.

You can do this at any point of the process,

but the earlier the better.

  1. What HAS to be true of your character? What are their defining attributes? Race, gender identification, basic build, age?

  2. Google those attributes with the words "famous actress/actor." For example, you would type in "famous actress in her 70s" for the grandmother character or "famous hot Italian actor" for the cute guy your main character meets on her trip to Tuscany.

  3. Click on Images and scan through the pictures until you see the actor that's just right. It's like a dating app, without the awkward first date.

4. Now because we are writers and we like to control things, we can change whatever we want about the actor without having to subject a living person to extreme plastic surgery or unhealthy weight loss programs. We can cast a "less creepy Willem Dafoe" or "Selena Gomez at the age she was on Barney."

5. Once you've got your guy or gal picked out, google the actor's name to call up a gallery of pictures to look at. Try to find the one picture that captures your character best.


When developing the character of my protagonist's father, I mentally cast David Duchovny. I found the perfect picture of him, his brow creased with thought. That crease in his brow because a major feature, not only of the character, but in the book, something that became symbolic of my protagonist's tension with her dad.

I made notes of short backstories on this character based on other photos in his google photo gallery. It was a great prompt to get me thinking about the character and what made him tick.

There's also a good chance I just like looking at David Duchovny...

Conclusion: Casting real actors and actresses you are familiar with as your characters, can help you visualize them more clearly. It can also help prompt the development of rich backstories.

I hope this hack will help you envision your characters more vividly! Let me know what you come up with!

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