I use photos as inspiration for my characters, as I assume many writers do. Usually, I have a vague picture in my mind as I am thinking of the plot, and then I search online to find a model or an actor to fit that mental image. When I find one, I download the photos and keep them open as I write. This helps me create a story with very specific and consistent physical descriptions. It helps me to “see” the possible facial expressions, to add detail to descriptions as I’m writing. It also helps avoid errors, such as a character who has blue eyes in one scene and then green eyes a few chapters later.
For the book I will release this week, Love You Forever, I had two famous faces in mind for my MCs. For Cole, the painter with some issues, I used Hayden Christensen:
For Rick, the photographer with a heart of gold, I used Nico Mirallegro:
(These are IMBd photos, I hope they are okay to post here?)
Anyway, there was of course plenty of source material on both of them, and with the bonus that Nico Mirallegro had played a goth/emo teen on the Brit show “Hollyoaks”, and so there were also pictures of him as I imagined young Rick to look:
(This is actually the picture that made me pick Nico. I found this searching for “guyliner pictures” when I was trying to get a face for “Young Rick”, and knew he was perfect)
But the problem is, eventually there had to be a cover for this book, and chances were I couldn’t get Hayden Christensen or Nico Mirallegro to model for it. So I had to find a photo which could at least somewhat fit the characters I’d described inside.
Personally, I HATE to read a book where the cover has two brown haired people and then find that the text describes one of them as blonde. Or when the guy on the cover is a twink and the one in the story is muscular. Ugh. Because, as a reader, I am using the cover as my “mental picture”.
So I try really hard to find a cover that is either a good match for my characters, or is vague enough not to matter.
This is the photo I picked:
Taken by Dan Skinner, who takes beautiful photos 🙂 and I think this is a pretty good match for my boys. The age is vague, which is good as my story follows them for 20 years. The setting is perfect, like the riverside where they spend so much time. And the pose is just the sweetest moment ever, which is also quite appropriate to my story.
But even if I think I did a good job, there is still a possibility that readers won’t agree with my “mental picture”. Because I don’t do that thing where upon first introduction I take a whole paragraph and describe a character in detail. Instead, I add in little bits of physical information throughout the book. Hair color in the first scene maybe, eye color a chapter later, skin tone somewhere else… so by the time a person has read the book, they might look back at the cover and find the picture there does not match what they saw in their mind’s eye as they were reading. Especially when most people read on e-readers, and the cover is something they might not see again after they begin reading.
I’m not sure, though, if this is even important to anyone else. It could be that I am obsessing over something that truly does not matter to anyone but myself. But it is done now, and I am pretty happy with the result. I’ll post the cover (and a link to the book) on Wednesday!