For years, I relied on my own head to picture my characters. Not always a great thing, since I still sometimes think in “anime” terms, since it’s easier as far as fantasy is concerned. But once I started RPing characters that were normal humans in everyday worlds, I had to start thinking about who would “play” them. On my forum (where I’m now a prefect, let us all SQUEEE!), a lot of my RPs are linked to movies, who have actors who played them. So now, even new characters have to have who we would like to think would be picked to play them in a movie, what we call playbys (for those who have no idea what that word is). It’s become a habit to try and do this with my books as well, if only to help me nail down an appearance and keep to it consistently. Sometimes, though, this can lead to more than it’s fair share of drama.
For example, the details. Do I have to have a British actress for my playby for Rose Weasley? Can I find an actress who is EXACTLY 17 to use as a base for Caley? For some people, that is a definite yes. One of my friends even does this with her characters for her book series, using the actors’ ages to figure out the age differences between characters. So where do I stand on this? Well… In an ideal situation, if I’m torn between two different playbys, I’ll take one with the closest nationality and/or age to what I want, but I won’t let it limit me completely. There’s no reason I should be stuck with a playby for a character just because she’s British if I find her to look too sweet or whatever for my version of Rose Weasley (thus, how that playby got changed from Karen Gillian to Haley Ramm). The details do trip me up, though. I have spent over an hour wading through brunettes with blue eyes to find Caley’s playby, and I still ended up on one of my favorites by default. That’s when I don’t have to give up completely. I’ve basically decided that if I have a character with pale blonde/white hair, she’s played by Scarlett Johansson. I’m done. No more trying to desperately find one, thank you.
Sometimes there is another completely different problem. Let’s use more Harry Potter examples here. In the movies, Astoria is played by Jade Olivia, a woman with dark hair and a darker complexion. With my somewhat crappy knowledge of genetics, I know the likelihood of that couple having a pale, blonde son is extremely unlikely, if not impossible entirely depending on Olivia’s background. As a result, I decided to change her playby to another actress who was paler and had strawberry blonde hair, without going too far in the other extreme so she looked too much like Draco’s actor, Tom Felton. You can reject the canon if it doesn’t fit with something that’s in your mind as far as the RP is concerned. There’s no reason why you should be miserable because your character’s playby is someone you think doesn’t fit the character. Admittedly, I wouldn’t do it too often, since that sort of destroys the point of RPing with an established canon, but for one or two characters, that’s fine.
In the forum where I RP, there is a particular section that I haven’t yet had the courage to go trolling through, but it sort of functions like each character in it is going through Hogwarts (or wherever else they are) at that time, interacting with other characters pretty freely. Well, in that section of the site, they are horribly picky about playbys being repeated. I’ll be honest, I’m this way in my current RPs. It’s kinda of stupid to use the same actor for two different characters in the same world. That said, I do have an Avengers RP, where obviously Scarlett Johansson is playing Natasha Romanov, but I also use her to play a pair of half-sisters, relying on the opposing hair colors to separate them (plus, she just can’t not make faces it seems like, so her features don’t all look the same in the two pictures either). As long as these two RPs don’t mix, I’m cool. But if Celine and Natasha ended up in the same place, yeesh, I would insist on somebody changing their playbys, just to keep things from being silly.
With the situation my forum uses for that one part of the site, there is a lot of potential for drama. As I mentioned, certain details make finding a playby harder than others, and what happens if you FINALLY find a playby that matches with your vision of the character, only it turns out that someone else has already claimed them? Well, hello, drama, haven’t seen you in a while… You’re going to want to have a meltdown, and that’s fine. Feel free to growl at your computer, complain to a friend, anything except for actually contact somebody about the problem first thing. Get the frustration out first. Then, look at your second-choice. Don’t have a second-choice? See if you can find a playby that has everything except for one trait. Is it one you can live without? Can you change the hair color in Photoshop and make it perfect?
Only if you have tried everything do you talk, very politely, with the person who has the playby you want. Find out why they picked them, first. Are they their favorite actor/actress? Are they just using that playby as a place holder? See how attached they are to that playby before you try to ask them if they mind changing it. Don’t pressure them, and don’t make demands. If they seem very attached or don’t want to change, ask them instead if they had a second-choice that was similar, to see if they know of an actor/actress that you didn’t. They could have a new name for you that, upon looking them up, works even better than the one you found. And if all of this fails, and you have no playby, well… That’s when you go to the character and make adjustments to make it fit a playby that you find who you can live with. Whatever you do, don’t get angry at the other person. It isn’t their fault, and they shouldn’t have to change just to make you happy.