Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory!

Madelynne Ellis and I have a mini-discussion going on about what characters look like. The problem is that I really can't disagree with the creator of the characters in question, now can I? I mean, after all, SHE's the ONLY one that REALLY knows what they look like, right? Yeah, yeah, Madelynne and other writers say they like it when readers interpret books in their own way, but as far as I'm concerned, the writer is the ultimate authority on her creation. UPDATE: Madelynne picked up the gauntlet and ran with it on her own blog.

AGW Book CoverSo anyone who's been around here any length of time knows that Madelynne's A Gentleman's Wager is one of my all time favorite reads and re-reads, followed closely by its first sequel, Phantasmagoria. My recent gushing about The Tudors started this entire discussion since, at one point, Madelynne mentioned that Jonathan Rhys Myers (with long hair) reminded her of how she pictured Vaughan (from AGW, etc). Jonathan Rhys MeyersI remember that when she compared Vaughan to JRM, my jaw dropped because it was SOOOO different from how I had pictured him. Vaughan is as close as I will ever get to truly understanding what writers mean when they refer to their characters as if they were living breathing people, so it's very hard for me to let go of my OWN image of him and drop in Madelynne's instead.

But how does the writer let her readers know what those characters look like in her head? Here's the thing, no matter how detailed a writer describes the physical characteristics of one of her characters, the fact is that, unless she can point to a real life person and say "He looks EXACTLY like so-and-so", then each reader will have a different picture of that character in their head. And then to further complicate matters, none of us can directly beam our mental images onto a piece of paper so we therefore have to again turn to photos of real life people to convey what WE are envisioning and we can seldom find a photo that EXACTLY matches OUR interpretation either. Thus board wars have started. GAK!

Jonathan Rhys MeyersAnyway, Madelynne said she was curious to see how I envisioned Vaughan and Lucerne.

As I said before, Madelynne thinks Jonathon Rhys Meyers reminds her of Vaughan (or vice versa): "Not so much as I picture Vaughan as JRM, as JRM occasionally produces an expression that is entirely Vaughan. It's flashes of Vaughan rather than a totality."

VaughanI envision Vaughan as fitting the descriptions of beautiful and intensely sensual, but with no androgyny because there's something still very masculine about his beauty. The pic at right is pretty damn close to how I see him, but Vaughan's a bit less "hard" looking with a touch more of the TYPE of beauty portrayed in this next pic (although the pic on the right definitely captures the brooding/plotting Vaughan):

Young Donovan Lewis

But his build is closer to this pic, although his muscles don't bulge quite as much. Definitely not as slim as JRM, but still a bit on the wiry side:

Manuel Casella

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that Vaughan is VERY close to the same vision I have of Jean-Claude from Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series. They are close enough that they're pretty much interchangeable in my head, no matter how hard I fight it. So here's Jean-Claude/Vaughan on the right in the comic adaptation of the ABVH series:

Yeah, I know, I've spent WAAAAYYY too much time thinking about this.wacko

Okay, so that's as close as I can get to how I envision Vaughan. Now Lucerne is MUCH easier because Jason Lewis is about as close as a guy can get to how I envision him:
Jason Lewis
Jason Lewis
Jason Lewis

So, whether you agree with me or not (and please do let me know), at least we've had a nice bit of eye candy today, haven't we?In the mood


JenB said...

*blink blink*

Uh...yeah, you really have put a lot of thought into this.

I can't honestly say that I've gotten a complete picture of any book character in my head. Most of my book characters don't even have faces or images. I see text in my head, not pictures (sad, yes).

Occasionally a picture will pop into my head, but it's usually one I don't want. Like when a character does something weird and somehow I accidentally start picturing David Spade or Jay Leno as the heroes, and Fran Drescher as the heroine. O_o

Apparently this is not normal.

I dare you to be shocked.

Madelynne Ellis said...

Oh, I'm very taken with the brooding picture on the right. Very nice.

But you know, Vaughan while masculine, certainly has a hint of androgyny about him, hence the little scenario with Niamh working so well.

And as you'll see from my most recent blog offering Jason Lewis already had a place in the line up :)

MB (Leah) said...

Hmm... I'm like Jen in this respect. I don't always have a clear pic in my head of what a character looks like. Just that they are dark or fair, or however the author describes them as far as hair color goes.

I can't think of any famous persons who are close to what I'd picture Vaughan or Lucerne as. It's very clear I have NO imagination. LOL

Bev(QB) said...

Damn, I spelled Niamh wrong on your blog. Well I guess just remembering how to pronounce it should be considered an accomplishment. Although, I don't remember if I ever asked you WHICH of the two accepted pronunciations she uses-- NEEVE or NAVE?

However, as I pointed out on your blog, as long as Vaughan and Niamh had similar hair, and assuming Vaighan's shoulders weren't too broad, Vaughan wouldn't have to lean too far into androgyny for Niamh to impersonate him at a distance at night.

Jen and MB, it's mentally impossible for me to read a book without trying to create a mental movie in my head. Sometimes my reader POV is from a corner of the room watching the action and sometimes I sort of head hop and each character becomes the "camera" through which I view events as they unfold. But until and unless I get that movie formed and rolling in my head, I have a terrible time getting into a book.

When people ask me why I still read the Anita Blake books, I always answer that it's because the characters still feel like I'm catching up with old friends. When I finish one of her books, it takes me a while to wrap my head around the fact that I can't just go to St. Louis and run into these people. Thanks to Johanna Parker's audio book narration, that's also how I now see Sookie Stackhouse.

Now with Madelynne's AGW characters, it's a bit different because it's historical. But until I met Vaughan, I always suspected it was just a kind of affectation that authors liked to throw out there when they refered to their characters as arguing with them or taking over a story. But I SWEAR that Vaughan somehow manages to take over whenever I try to discuss AGW. He's as close as I will ever come to understanding how authors see their characters.

And now you see why Madelynne is both flattered and frightened by me. ;-p

JenB said...


Bev, you are such a dork. And I mean that in the nicest way. I love it! *hugs*

Too cute! LOL

Madelynne Ellis said...

Bev, it's NEEVE. (Old family with Welsh and Irish roots. Yes, I'm sad. I have a family tree drawn out.)

I do the movie thing you do when I'm reading too. Actually, it's also how I write. I can see the scenes playing out in my head, which makes it doubly hard to catch all the nuances.

I'm definitely flattered by you. Don't know about frightened. I'm enjoying the discussion too much.

Bev(QB) said...

HAH! See Jen! I'm not a dork! Or at least I'm not the only one. ;-p

Apparently what I am is handicapped. My creativity gene is deformed and only functions in one direction-- OTHER people's imaginings can be input and processed, but that one-way gene is incapable of creating anything on its own.


Well, at least my opinionated old bitch gene is still working quite well.

"Don't know about frightened."
Heh. You only say that, Madelynne, because there's an entire ocean between us. ;-p

Koukai7 said...

Oh wow! You guys sure have it down to detail, i wonder what the author would think on both of your ideas. I personally think that the Brooding one on the right fits him better :D Thanks for sharing those pictures!! ♥

Bev(QB) said...

Hi Kouka! As you can see from the comments, the author, Madelynne Ellis' reaction is a bit mixed. If you follow that first link in the post, you'll see that Madelynne offered up some pictures of her own in response. Of course, keep in mind that this is all in fun. Sort of. We haven't heard back from Vaughan yet so I can't guage HIS reaction. ;-p