Casting your story

Character is the cornerstone of any story. For me, casting my character list is a huge part of the writing and character creation process. To do so effectively means I’ll have more inspiration than I can sometimes handle when I’m writing, but this is a great way to stave off writer’s block.

So, how do you effectively cast your script? I’ll share a few tips:

Online searches

Everything from generalized descriptions like ‘blond female model’ or ‘middle-aged male athlete’ to something more specific like the name of a celebrity, model, sports figure or politician.

These searches can prove to be fruitful and may even inspire new characters or descriptions.


It’s worth starting a file for pictures found in magazines, newspapers, or through other sources. You may need this file for inspiration later when you’re writing.

Keeping separate files for male or female leads might be wise, but I honestly just throw them all into one file and deal with them later when I’m ready to actually cast a specific piece.

Movies/ television/ news/ music industry

Any of these can offer great options for casting your characters. Surprisingly, it doesn’t limit my writing when I do this. Even if you’re a big fan of an actor or musician’s work for instance, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to see them in the role you’re casting them in. It might even mean you are more capable of doing so because you’re familiar with their work and quirks.

And further…

You don’t need to narrow it down to the ‘one’ for each role. I often create a document where I cut and paste different pictures for the moods of each character and the situations in which they might find themselves. While I may imagine one person or picture more than the others when writing, all tend to be valuable to my process.

Think outside the box when it comes to ‘casting’ your story. There’s no need to limit yourself to only searching celebrities or even well-known entities. Any picture can be a help when writing. There isn’t a right/ wrong answer here. Whatever inspires you is what you need to write.

Go for it! Cast your story now!

Happy writing!

Films that inspire writers: Stranger than Fiction

It’s not surprising that writers look for inspiration everywhere. Because of their visual nature, films can offer encouragement and insight for writers in any number of ways.

The film Stranger than Fiction is one such example of a valuable writing film. This film explores many relevant areas for writers, including writer’s block, inspiration, creativity, the writing process, and even writer’s preferences in terms of writing spaces, process, and more. While the insights presented may be a bit far-fetched (most films are so as to bow to the needs of the silver screen), they can encourage writers to try new techniques or ideas to find writing success.

In short, the film Stranger than Fiction is about a writer named Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) who is struggling through writer’s block as she seeks to decide on the perfect way to kill her protagonist, Harold Crick (Will Ferrell). This film is a great illustration of the deep waters writers have to go through to bring their characters to the page. The acting in the film is excellent, and overall the film is well worth watching.

Check it out!

What films inspire your writing?

Mix tapes: the perfect writing playlist

Writing comes easily for me when I’mixtapesve got music that matches or enhances what I’m writing about. But I can’t just put on a radio station that plays some of my favorite tunes. While this may work for a time, I find when I’m more deliberate in my music selections, the writing is better overall.

How do I choose what music will work for each project?

There was a time when I actually made mix tapes, which then became CDs, and now has become playlists using an online program. While I still use CDs sometimes (like when I’m in the car for instance and don’t want to lose the inspiration), the online program works well since I’m usually at my computer anyway.

Here are some tips to help you create your own amazing writing playlist:

  • Genre
    • Select a genre you like and are familiar with anyway. This will make it easier to choose music you like and can sing along with, but because of your writing, you may also hear this piece in a new and interesting way
  • Tone, emotion
    • What is your piece about? Even if you haven’t written a word yet, you likely have some idea of character, goals/ motivations, scenes, and even dialogue that will appear in your story.
      • What songs enhance or support these areas? Do other songs by this artist work as well? Will this song reflect earlier or later emotion or tone of your work?
    • Character
      • What kinds of character development will happen in your story? Even the sweetest, best-behaved characters make stupid mistakes- so let the music reflect what they might have been thinking in those moments
    • Order counts
      • I don’t always do a great job with this, but I try to consider what songs would fit at the beginning, middle, and end. While you don’t want to take a large amount of time stewing over these areas, a little thought goes a long way.

Music is essential to my writing process. I have written several novels and screenplays, all of which have a soundtrack attached to them that I listened to pretty religiously as I wrote. This was sometimes to the annoyance of those around me, but as a writer, I can be a bit eccentric sometimes, right?

How do you use music (or art, poetry, or anything else) to encourage and inspire your work? Comment below!

What’s in a name?

Naming characters is a fun, but sometimes scary, part of writing. The options sometimes feel limitless… or is it daunting? There really are some great ways you can make it easier to name your story characters. Let’s explore some of them.

To begin, perhaps you should consider when in the writing process you typically like to name your characters. If it is at the start of your story then you might add one (or more) of these ideas to your writing schedule before you do anything else. If you prefer to learn about your characters and then name them, you may add these in at the middle or closer to the end of your writing process.

A few basic considerations:

Some specific areas may impact the name you choose for your character—and knowing even a little bit about him/ her will help narrow down your options. Some of these issues include:

  • Time period- a name like Gretchen, Rain, or Alberta may be popular at particular times in history but maybe not so (or not used at all) in others.
  • Location- some names vary in popularity based on area
  • Economics- which leads to status in the community and so on. This may be of lesser importance than other issues, but is still worthy of consideration
  • Education- knowing cultural issues, literary references, etc. might suit one class more than another
  • Ethnicity- if a character is from another part of the world or has a family that is proud of or influenced strongly by their roots, ethnicity may play a part in a character name

Any or all of these might in some way influence your choice of character name. Don’t hesitate to do a little research before locking in a name (it’s easy- and with the Internet, you have no excuse). Finally, you also don’t want to stereotype your characters based on any of these things, so be open-minded.

Useful resources:

Random name generators and web sites that explain names and history abound on the Internet, but don’t shy away from some other less frequently considered, but still valid, options for finding names. And a side note- when you hear/ read a name you like and want to use later, be sure you’ve created a space on your computer (a folder perhaps) for names you might need at another time.

Some off-the-wall places to find names that can be used as-found, or adapted in creative and unique ways based on your needs/ wants:

  • Telephone books (last names as first names, anyone?)
  • Places (small towns, cities, countries)
  • The Bible
  • Literature/pamphlets/ documents/ history
  • Observe (waitresses, clerks, cashiers, managers… anyone you run into could have the name- or even nickname- you’ve been searching for. I once overheard someone in a café and used that name later in a story, so pay attention to who is around!)

And, of course I wouldn’t belittle the use of a website to generate a name that suits your story. I’ve used many when writing my own stories and found them to be very helpful. Try one and see what works for you.

Finally, once you settle on a name, remember that you can always change it later. Sometimes I’ll start with a ‘short list’ of names I like, and realize that one stands out over the others. I’ve also written well into a story and realized a name wasn’t working—or that I preferred the character’s nickname to their given name.

Take your time but don’t let naming characters worry you or stall your writing process.

Bonus exercise: Name the character described here: Owner of a small business that prints business cards and other signage. She’s tall with a crooked nose but has a magnetic personality and tells jokes often. Everyone in town knows her as she took over the business for her ailing father who recently passed away. She’s 24 years old and didn’t go to college but took a few online business courses recently. Has a boyfriend who takes her for granted but she’s willing to dump him… just doesn’t yet have a good enough reason (and she doesn’t want to be alone).

Who is she? What are your top name picks? Do first, middle, and last on this one. Feel free to comment with your ideas for her name– or with any other thoughts you have about naming characters.

Happy writing!