A year or so ago, I posted a piece about how certain celebrities or models or anyone whose face turns up in movies, on TV, or even in magazines, is fair game for triggering a creative spark in me. Jake Holdridge (Saving Jake) for instance, is based on the appearance of a British actor who once portrayed Robin Hood. The personality of the actor (I've met him on more than one occasion) and the personality of my character have very little in common, but the appearance of this particular person -his hair color, his eyes, his build, his height- all had a great deal to do with how Jake came into being. His name is Michael Praed and as Robin Hood, he looked like this!!!
I got some interesting feedback on that piece, not just because of the hot picture, but because other writers apparently do the same thing I do, glimpsing a particular face and then running wild with a new character.
There have been times, however, when the process has worked in reverse. And when that happens, I'm always amazed.
Back when I was holding down my first job after finishing college, I wrote a sci-fi fantasy that has never been published. Trust me, it's a good thing this book has never seen the light of day. Still, I put a lot of work into my three heroes, carried them around in my head while I was working on the manuscript, conversed with them, dreamed about them, all the usual. So you can imagine my shock when I went out with hubby and some friends one evening and caught a glimpse of one of my characters sitting at the end of the bar. I almost fell over. But there he was in true life -the hair (dark), the build (slender), even the way he gestured while he was talking with his buddies.
I didn't want to make him think I was a stalker, so I didn't do things like get closer to eavesdrop, or follow him to the pool tables. I wanted to, but, well, I'm not THAT crazy.
For those of you who know my book Haunted and the character Michael Penfield: I just had the same kind of shock while paging through an Avon catalog and finding a color photograph of Mr. Penfield right there, right in my face. Much to my surprise, Michael was peddling men's cologne. Anyone who knows Michael will find that statement pretty funny. But no kidding, this model is my character's doppelganger.
And I wish I could post the picture, but I don't think I can for a couple of reasons. 1) Copyright -don't want to get nailed by Avon OR by this model, for using his likeness without permission, and 2) I have no scanner. But if you can find an Avon catalog from last August, and go to page 52 for the ad hawking Wild Country cologne, you too can glimpse Michael Penfield as I picture him. All that's missing is the scar. Everything else - perfecto.
(By the way, if you don't find the catalog, but you do happen to run into me, I'll be happy to show the picture to you. At the moment, I keep the page very safely in the folder that also holds the growing manuscript, Dead Voices...)