I’m going camping with my Guides this weekend so I won’t be able to get my review of Rock of Ages out until later on Sunday afternoon. As an apology, I’m going to do a Random Friday post on a disturbing new trend among authors: casting their own books.
Until recently, whenever you read a book you were given basic descriptive information for each character: hair and eye color, build, height, age, identifying marks, clothes, etc. You would then fill in the blanks in your imagination, creating a character that looked appealing (or unappealing, as the case might be) to you, and you ran with it.
Today, though, many authors are so obsessed with dictating their EXACT vision to you that they’ve started casting their own books on their websites. Suzanne Brockmann, author of the Seal Team 16/Troubleshooters books, Sherrilynn Kenyon, author of the Dark Hunter books, Lee Child, who does the Jack Reacher series, and Scholastic, who publishes the 39 Clues books, are just a few of the people who are using models to show their readers who they see when they imagine their own stories.
Or in Sherrilynn Kenyon’s case – entire ARMIES of models
The thing is: books don’t need to be cast. Movies need to be cast because we can’t have a bunch of blank heads walking around on screen.
RON: Hey Harry, did you get a haircut?
HARRY: I have hair?
But casting a book is unnecessary and perhaps even detrimental to the reader’s experience, especially since authors don’t usually have control over their own book covers, so the faces on the books are often not the ones the author has chosen for their site.
SUZANNE BROCKMANN: This is what they look like!
PUBLISHER: No, this is what they look like!
ME: *brain explodes*
I don’t mind seeing a character’s face before I read the book. In fact – I find that if there’s a movie version of a book I get more enjoyment out of both the movie and the book if I watch the movie first so that there won’t be a jarring disconnect between the characters’ looks when I switch from movie to book. This worked out well for me with Bridget Jones’ Diary, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and True Blood/the Sookie Stackhouse books.
Screen casting – a lot easier to do when you’re competing against cartoons.
The thing is – when it comes time to make the movie version of the book, the filmmakers aren’t going to hire the author’s random next door neighbor or whoever they chose to model the character for their site or for the book cover. They’re going to hire a professional actor because professional actors can act (well, most of them can) which is going to change the character’s looks again and make fans of the book spew vitriol all over the internet.
”But Ford Prefect isn’t black!” (etc.)
But in the end, who is the viewer going to remember as the “real” character? Not the model the author chose, because a 2D image can’t come close to what a real actor can do in terms of embodying the character traits outlined in the book. Even actors who don’t look like the cover models or the book descriptions can pull their ears when they get nervous or have a squeaky voice or kick a dude in the face like a badass and OWN the character while the most an image can do is pose. This is why so many books use silhouettes or just plain old symbols on the covers.
or if it’s a romance novel – waxed chests topped by hats
It gets even worse when the author retroactively goes back through their book list and casts all their old stuff with models because if you’ve read the books, you already have a clear image in your head of what the characters look like, and it’s not like the models because no two brains are alike.
This young tool is not Jack Reacher, and I will thank you to keep this picture to yourself.
So please, authors – let us use our imaginations. We like it. That’s why we read books in the first place. If we wanted our hands held, we’d turn on the TV.