When I’m writing, I like to “see” my story. I tape a big piece of brown paper to my office wall and cover it with post-it notes of story lines, scene ideas, and nuggets of information I don’t want to forget, along with pictures of settings in which the story takes place.
Once I have a solid feel for the characters I’m creating, I add their photos, too. Sometimes I look for pictures of actors who might play the character and sometimes I look for people who just feel right. When I choose a picture, it’s often less about the way the person looks and more about the personality traits that the photo suggests.
If you’ve been reading A Strange Companion, maybe you’ve already formed images of your own about what the characters look like. I don’t want to ruin that because one of the wonderful things about books is that you get to cast the roles in your own imagination. So, if you prefer to keep it that way, don’t read any further. However, if you’re curious to see what was in my head—and on my storyboard—read on:
To me, Kat is very down-to-earth. She loves climbing and the outdoors and she’s not big on fashion or make-up, but she’s still very feminine. Even though she’s going through a rough time in the story and doesn’t always make the best decisions, ultimately, she is tough and smart, and very determined. This photo of Daisy Ridley, not in her scruffy Star Wars garb, is the perfect representation of Kat.
Oh, Owen. I do have a soft spot for this character. Although it was very tempting to cast Chris Hemsworth or Aiden Turner as Kat’s love interest (okay, those are my choices, not hers, I admit it) Owen is more the roguish boy-next-door type. He’s kind and funny, handsome, but not with the sort of moody good looks you’d trip over yourself to look at. (Is that just me, too?) Although Owen is loosely based on someone I knew, when I saw this loveable shot of Andrew Garfield, I chose it for my character board.
In the book, Kat describes Gabe as “beautiful.” In her memories, he is perfect in every way. I needed someone sultry, but cool, with the sort of moody good looks I talked about earlier, but in a younger, boyish package. Kat was a teenager when she and Gabe met, so I needed someone that 16-year-old Kat would find attractive. Nicholas Hoult has a boyish sexiness and seemed like someone Kat might have fallen for.
Kat’s mother, Helen, is a young widow in her early 50’s, making a fresh start with a new man (much to Kat’s consternation.) I describe her as blonde when we first meet her at the airport, and I imagined to her to be attractive and well put together, but also down-to-earth, like Kat. It took me a while to find the perfect image and, finally, I came across this picture of J. K. Rowling. To me, she looks the part of Kat’s mum and I could imagine her being very pragmatic with Kat and also letting loose and having fun with Brian.