Friday, October 09, 2009

Casting your novel

Charles here, ready to pontificate.

Last week I tried to start a firestorm with a blog post that explained why literary novels, in general, are better written than mystery novels. However my argument (see below) proved to be either too brilliant or too futile so it sparked few responses. Today I’m too busy putting out fires at the ad agency to be argumentative. I’m casting 5 speaking parts for a TV spot we’re shooting Monday.

It’s just a 30 second spot, but each “character” has his or her own personality that we have to try to capture with spot-on casting, Edith Head-quality wardrobe and Oscar-worthy directing. So we brought in 20+ local actors and models to do a quick read of various lines, not so much a casting call as it was a creative audition. All were good, some were really good and the best of the best made the final selection process.

So what does my oh-so-exciting life as a commercial producer have to do with writing mysteries? Besides the constant gunplay and the husky voiced femme fatales, quite a bit actually.

As an author, you have to cast your story as well, finding the right personification to the voices you hear in your head. Even if you never mention it, never allude to it, you know it makes a big difference whether your heroine is a blond, brunette or a redhead. You know that you need to see every character, get a good long look at ‘em, before you can bring them into a scene. Even if it’s tall man in scene 2, you have to know whether said tall man’s belt matches his shoes. Now will your reader ever see this? Unless there’s a good reason, I sure hope not, but you as the director of your story need to see every detail nailed before you yell action.

Now just to be clear, I’m not talking that little what-if game we all play where we cast well known celebs in the movie versions of our books. I’m talking about a real technique you can/should apply when you’re writing your mystery. It’s not a all-done-now-who-fits approach, it’s a collaboration that allows for unexpected twists and enables the actors to bring something of themselves to the role. At the ad agency, too often we’re under a tight time schedule or exacting client specs, but when we can we like to let the actors read the role the way they think it should sound, changing words if they feel something else would sound better. It doesn’t happen that way often enough, but, just like casting your novel, it’s worth considering.

I’d explain this better, but I have a location to scout. Hmmm…might make a good blog post.

This Sunday be sure to tune in for an exclusive B’con preview from my good friend, author and noted mystery aficionado, Jared Case.


Rick Blechta said...

Charles, your treatise last week was nothing short of brilliant and left little for anyone to say. As a result, I have stopped writing crime fiction and will confine myself to the lofty heights in the ivory tower of literary fiction.

Or not.

P.S. Is it just me, or does anyone else here miss dear old Anonymous? Such pithy repartee, such heights we scaled with his lofty prose, his remarkable insight into the human condition. Remember the motel comment? It has stayed with me lo these many weeks...

synge lucia said...

Charles, your own treatise a week ago had been absolutely nothing lacking amazing as well as remaining small for anybody to express. Consequently, I've halted composing criminal offense fictional and can restrain personally towards the high levels within the off white structure associated with fictional fictional.

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