Saturday, January 29, 2011

Choosing Characters for a Novel - Helen Bianchin

For me, choosing characters for a new novel represents fun time.

It becomes a question of where to begin - An general outline of the plot works best for me.

Then it's a question of deciding on names for the two main characters, followed by a picture or art photo for vizualization.

Let's begin with the male lead - the hero in a romance novel needs to appear heroic, don't you think?

GQ is a great magazine from which to select a picture of a male model -Gabriel Aubry, anyone? The model in the Davidoff advertisement?

Actors - Daniel Day Lewis as he appeared in "The Last of the Mohicans"? Xavier Bardem in "Eat Pray Love"? Ryan Reynolds in "The Proposal"?

OK, names - somehow Bert doesn't conjure up the right image. Maybe Brad? If the hero is of foreign heritage, there are multiple choices in several languages - think

Rafael, Alexei, Nicolaos.

For the heroine - Do you want her to be demure, feisty, quietly determined? Emma, Ana, Mikayla, perhaps matched to the picture or art photo of a model or actress you feel will match the role you've chosen for her to play.

The difference between a writer's choice of names and the visual image the reader gains of the characters depicted in a novel intrigues me.

As a writer, my choices are my own. I love books. I'm an avid reader of several genres, and I like to gain a visual image of the writer's characters as I read, to the extent I'm so engaged with the story, the characters, the setting, that in my head I'm there, transported by the magic of the writer's skill with words.

Is this how it is for most readers? Is it important for you to identify visually with the characters in a novel?

And writers? The process differs from one to another.

It would be interesting to hear what both views ...

On an end-note, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year, with good health, happiness and success.

Helen's next release, ALESSANDRO'S PRIZE is due for UK release in June 2011.  Visit to learn more about Helen.


Anna Campbell said...

Hi Helen! Waving madly! What an interesting post. I laughed at one of my dukes being called Bert! Could happen, I suppose! Have a great day.

Kaelee said...

Hi Helen,

I think it must be the baggage people carry about a name that makes it romantic or not. I had an uncle called Bert and I think it's a great name. It is more likely to be an historical hero's name than a current one though.
In the books I read last year there were Jacks and Jakes but no Johns. I wonder why as John is a very strong name. There were also Matthews, Marks and Lukes
Nowadays baby's names are often made up as my two nephews names were ~ Kayel and Louic.

I do picture the characters in a story as I go along. One the the things that can really throw me out of a story is if some feature of a H/h is changed mid story.

Best wishes for 2011 as well

Annie West said...

Helen, I enjoyed this post so much. I think a mental picture of the characters is vital, even if we all take the same ingredients and come up with a slightly different picture in our heads. As for names, yes they can be be so evocative, can't they? I love some of the strong heroes' names from romances and the chance to choose a heroine's name that fits with the character I want to portray. For me it has to be a name I can pronounce easily and think other readers can too. Not that I'm saying it out loud but I don't want to hesitate, even in my mind, over possible pronunciations.

Nas Dean said...

Yes, I do visualize a John or a Jim in my head. And decide if I'm going to like him or not.

Totebag Guest said...

Hi Anna, waving right back at you!
Thank you so much for responding.
Somehow I can't imagine one of your gorgeous Dukes bearing the name of Bert. But change it to Roberto, and maybe an Italian Duke?


Totebag Guest said...

Hi Kaylee,
Loved your post, and I agree, John is a strong male name.
I really like Kayel for your nephew's name - it's very unusual.
Thanks for responding.

All the best

Totebag Guest said...

Annie, thank you so much for joining in this discussion. I'm so pleased you find the post interesting.
Visualization is a wonderful tool, and brings to life the story, the characters.

All the best

Totebag Guest said...

Hi Nas,
The character's name is so important to the reader, isn't it? Especially the hero ...

Best wishes

Totebag Guest said...

On an end note - my apologies for the length of time in posting my replies. Google refused to accept me as a bona fide blogger! In desperation I needed to contact Lee for help.

Take care, everyone

Pat Cochran said...

I must live on another plane
because names don't really seem
to matter that much. Unless it is
something that is too outrageously
and obviously outlandish! It does
seem as though all the authors I
read must be doing a very good job
because I haven't complained lately!

Just wanted to include a note that
I have long enjoyed your books!
Keep them coming!!

Pat Cochran