I’m having a hard time envisioning my male protagonist. Heck, I’m having a hard time figuring out most things about my male protagonist. It’s rather frustrating, especially since my female protagonist essentially created herself. Helen was supposed to be a foil for my real female protagonist, but she slowly took over and shoved the other girl completely out of the book. Very aggressive, that one. She knows exactly who she is and usually I do too.
But Collin, my male lead? No idea. I know some of what he does for the plot’s sake, but I don’t know who he is internally or externally. This made my visual aid inspiration board very one-sided, literally.
|Sorry about the flash -- no light in the loft yet. Here we have lots of Helen on the right (and I actually have some other more action-oriented ones that haven't gone up yet), and a bicycle-riding bunny that is not Collin on the left.|
I don’t like to force those inspiration images, but I finally gave up yesterday and started searching for images that would give me a visual anchor for Collin.
It was much harder to do than I expected. Sadly there is no website called Goodphotosofdarkhairedteenageboyswholikeoutdooradventuresandmatchtheveryvagueideainmyhead.com. (I checked.) I'm very jealous of the artists out there who can just draw their characters exactly how they see them!
I didn’t want a celebrity that I knew, because that would come with too much preexisting baggage. So I searched haircut websites, squinted at pictures of high school sports teams, revisited photos of Stephanie Perkins’ celebrity boys, randomly googled male names… I’m sure my search history is very interesting right now.
I even tried to create Collin by combining random faces on this website, which I knew from my psych research. It didn't work for what I wanted, but I recommend checking it out.
My biggest unanticipated problem with most of my search methods: the boys were too pretty. Collin is athletic and not bad looking, but he also needs to have a certain level of awkwardness and self-doubt in order for him to play off of Helen correctly. So, for example, I really liked this guy for Collin:
Except he’s not so much awkward as really, really, really, distractingly attractive. Not only is he not Collin, but honestly if I put him on my inspiration board I would get no writing done.
So, very little luck on Collin, though figuring out repeatedly what he did NOT look like helped me outline him a bit more I suppose. I knew it would be better (and more likely) to stumble across this sort of inspiration than to force it...
Which brings me to my silver lining. While looking so desperately for Collin, I happened to find a different character. I thought I knew what Roger looked like – short, jovial, British, cute in a childish way – but I was ignoring other, darker layers to his character and didn't really have the full picture.
THIS is Roger.
|Except that he doesn't actually dress like a Dickens character. That's internalized.|