V is for… (#AtoZChallenge 2012)

V is for Victor versus Victor

(Post 22 on my WIP)

No this isn’t a ‘Catching Fire’ reference for fellow Hunger Games Fans.

Victor Faber is the field survival teacher and medic at the time police academy. Because of Jane’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder she has to meet Victor regularly for check ups so they have a good relationship; Victor sees beyond her condition and recognises her potential.

Now when I was searching online for actors/actresses/people who look like how I imagine my characters, or who I think could play them personality wise, I chose James McAvoy to play Victor and posted this to Pinterest.

Then came the reVelation, the controVersy that has left me a bit discombobulated (really love this word but not necessarily the feeling). A number of my beta readers had pictured Victor as being middle aged or older and there was the feeling from them that perhaps he should be. Now I’ve read back through and I actually don’t really give any indication of age at all; Will Eisner suggests a ‘doctor prototype’  is often ‘drawn from both social experience and what the reader thinks a doctor ought to look like.’  Also I suppose Victor acts as a sort of Mentor to Jane throughout this book. Perhaps the stereotype of doctors and mentors are that they are older and wiser (my friends and I are still relatively young). But, to me, although Victor has an old soul, and a love of pudding, I still see him as not that much older than Dylan and Jamie. I think to be the academy doctor he would need to be relatively young and fit (btw I’m not saying that older people can’t be fit).

So, what do I do?
Do I put more clues in about his age as I see it?
Do I bow to beta reader opinion and make him older?
Do I leave it as it is, without the clues and just writing who I perceive Victor to be and accept that readers will see him how they want to letting some see him as older, some as younger?
Do you think as writers we always have to spell out the age, look etc etc of characters or is it OK to be ambiguous? I said that I’d failed by not making my intentions clear but is this always essential – surely readers are allowed their own interpretations.
What if I’m ambiguous and then do something that reveals his age as I see it later (not necessarily intentionally) – will that throw readers off, make them angry at me or will they accept it?
Would I be happy if a film was made about casting choices if I left it ambiguous? (Rhetorical question unless you happen to be a mind reader ;o))

I repeat again, I’m discombobulated about this and not 100% sure how to move forward (as a side note I experienced discombobulation in relation to my PhD this week too so not really sure who or where I am).

The perils/opportunities of sharing an incomplete first draft. Any advice gratefully received.

Posted on April 25, 2012, in #am writing (and all things writing related), April A-Z Challenge, Training Time (WIP) and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Ooooh, tough one. I had a similar thing where I character I imagined as fairly young (my default template tends to be ’20-something good looking male’) and a beta thought of him as this guy:

    I went with the ‘old guy’ representation because I lack a bit of variety in my character age ranges (though I scaled it down to 50-something-year-old for practical reasons). So I sort of found a happy medium?

    I like the idea of leaving it open to interpretation in the book. I don’t see any issues with being ambiguous, you can always slip in details unrelated to his age or appearance (mannerisms, ticks etc). The more detailed info can still be mentioned on your site as a sort of easter egg, without forcing the reader to rethink their mental image mid-book.

    Good luck!

  2. Perhaps this is just me, but I find that when I get sucked into a book, I read at such speed that I end up not taking in all the details properly, and for that reason I think the interpretation of a book’s character is not just the author’s responsibility, but the reader’s as well. If you don’t read the book properly, you have only yourself to blame if you don’t imagine the characters as they actually are!

    As an example, I’ve reread books before and come across descriptive elements of a character that don’t tally with what I’ve imagined – a different hair colour or age for example. The elements were there the first time, but I obviously didn’t take them in properly and my imagination went on its own merry way. It jars slightly when I realise I was mistaken, but a) it’s my own fault for not reading it properly in the first place and b) it doesn’t stop me enjoying the book anyway.

    • Funny I did that with Tris and was taken aback when she was described as blonde in Insurgent. I speed read too which is why I often return for repeat readings – to be able to ‘take it all in’ while not having to worry about finding out what happens.

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