Have you ever tried casting your novel for the big screen? Which stars do you visualize for your characters? The first time I heard of that exercise, I was stumped.
First, I’m not a movie buff, and I watch very little current TV…Great British Baking Show aside! But the challenge does force me to think about how my characters look – something I don’t deal with much on the page, because I just know. Physical descriptions are light in my novels; height and hair color, not to mention clothing, are rarely mentioned unless they’re important to character development.
Second, I’d much rather my readers form their own vision rather than having mine foisted on them. How often have you been excited to have your favorite novel made into a movie, only to have the actors look totally different than you’d imagined (think Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher!)?
But I took the plunge and cast both Jadz novels from my admittedly short list of favorite actors. If you’ve read either Forty & Out or Burned Bridges, how does your image of my imaginary friends measure up?
The protagonist of both novels is Toledo (Ohio) Police Homicide Detective Veronica “Jadz” Jadzinski. Jadz is strong, independent, and juggling not only a demanding job in a world still dominated by men, but also a needy widowed mother, a drama queen sister, and an almost-ex-husband who doesn’t want to let go. I’m guessing all those personal issues are why my uncle told me I “write like a girl.” But in my mind, that makes her more real. When I think of Jadz, physically I see someone like Julianne Moore.
We first meet Jadz’s nemesis, Lt. Adam Forester, at the crime scene in Chapter Two of Forty & Out. Jadz is new to Homicide, a recent transfer from the Drug Task Force because her cover was blown on their last big bust. Forester doesn’t trust her – yet, and she chafes at the increased supervision he presents. She’s accustomed to working independently in her undercover roles and isn’t happy about having to report in as often as Forester demands. And when he assigns her a new partner (we’ll meet Rena next week), their relationship gets even chillier. I can’t resist picturing Forester as a grumpy Harrison Ford from Morning Glory.
When the murder case she’s been assigned turns out to be a serial killer, Jadz is saddled with a new partner, Rena Castillo, or “The Miser,” as some in the department call her. She’s meticulous, efficient, very controlled, and not really any happier with the new pairing than Jadz is, but she does her job. Needless to say, that leads to a clash or two. Given the family background I created for Rena, physically I picture someone like Zoe Saldana.
As noted above, in addition to solving crimes, Jadz has to deal with her needy widowed mother, Mavis. After Jadz’s father was killed in the line of duty, she became the strong one in the family, and she takes her responsibilities very seriously. It feeds her stoic independent streak. But every so often, Jadz finds herself at the receiving end of more mothering than she would like. I had to reassure my own mother that no, she was not the inspiration for Mavis (Mom’s much too independent in her own right for that!). Picture Kristin Chenoweth with flaming red hair, at her ditzy best.
One of the biggest PIAs Jadz has to deal with throughout the series is her older sister, Betty. She’s self-centered, divorced, living at home with Mom, and struggling with addiction issues and a penchant for petty crime. In Forty & Out, Jadz finally learns what ruined their once-close relationship, but it doesn’t mend the rift. And to my sisters: Like all my characters, she’s a composite of people I’ve known over the years – it’s fiction, remember? Physically, I’ll go with Michelle Pfeiffer for Betty.
Next week, I’ll look at four peripheral characters.
Who fills out your Oscar-worthy cast?