Character Try-Outs: Audition Time

Once I’ve got the seeds of a story, I begin writing and, as new characters pop up, I hold auditions. Not literally, of course, but in my head.

First I consider the basics: gender, age, hobbies, job – and turn to the specifics: quirks, emotional state, sense of humor, role or stake in the story. Character background and history may be important, in case I need to flesh a character out. I also think how the character will look and sound. Here’s an example of an audition:

In Gambling with Murder, coming to the book world on March 29th, heroine Corrie hangs with older folks because the story takes place in a ritzy retirement community where a resident goes missing. But security guards also play a role, keeping the seniors safe, and keeping Corrie under control. Fat chance! (I got that last phrase from a character in Murder: Double or Nothing.)

One of the early scenes involves a guard named Kyle. He’s somewhat menacing at the get-go and takes his job mighty seriously which causes Corrie, and associate Veera, to stand-back, which they don’t often do. Who did I audition for the role of Kyle? A few prospects jumped to mind, real and not so real. Only one character sprang to life and was just who I wanted. Seven feet tall and gangly, but menacing. When Corrie meets Kyle, she mentions his mouth must be filled with steel-capped teeth. I pictured the character Jaws who appeared in a few James Bond flicks. My Kyle loosely resembles Jaws, but with a little more ambition and a soft side that Corrie may or may not discover. 

For the seniors who populate posh retirement community, Villa Sunset, I gathered a slew of old-time actors to audition; very easy for me, since I’m an avid fan of old movies. The seniors are composites of everyone from James Cagney to Myrna Loy with a dash of Laurel and Hardy thrown in. One character, Sofi Reyes, had Myrna’s nose and hair, Jean Arthur’s antics, and a sprinkling of Rosalind Russell to toughen her up.

Each character has to have a distinct voice in my head. Otherwise, how will I know which words to use? During auditions, I listen extra closely once I “meet” the character, and make a list of words relevant to each. For instance, in MURDER GONE MISSING, the janitor’s voice was crystal clear. I knew he’d use words like “nifty.” I also knew he’d feed the koi in the campus pond. Auditions help me create just the right people to play the roles in my books!

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2 years ago

Hi Lida, I can’t wait till your new book comes out. Sound so interesting. I read All your books and liked them all. when is your new book going to be ready?

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