When I start piecing a novel together in my head, I have a habit of using place-markers for the major characters. (Whether this is odd, endearing or useful to you, I’ll let you decide. I’d hold off on all judgments until the end of this post, however. Even I don’t know where these blogs are going until we’re all standing at the end with guppy-faces and sweaty hands.)
For instance, in The Hushing Days I had six brothers whom I knew were going to play major roles throughout the story. Which brothers were going to take the lead in the plot was still to be decided. (This novel is based on a true story of six Scots-Irish brothers during the Revolutionary War, so I wanted to keep that key fact true, no matter the mayhem of having six blank-faced men staring at me, begging for individualities.)
Anyhow, to keep them straight in my head, I assigned an actor to hold each spot. I like to think of it as the folks hired to fill the empty seats at the Oscars when the big guns head to the bathroom. Empty seats equals blank-faces in the weird world of Chloe.
By the time the actual writing of the novel begins, these place-markers are nearly always kicked soundly out of their seats and replaced by the real-deals who look nothing like their thespian mannequins. Only on the rarest of occasion does an actor stick around to play the role. In The Hushing Days, for example, only one of the six brothers still retains its place-marker. (That would be Ozzie, the oldest of the sibling six… but I’ll never tell who’s playing that part in my head.)
In short, because I doubt there’s really been a point to all this rambling, I’ll leave you with this…
Use what works for you however wacky or off-the-wall it may be, i.e. snuggle with whoever makes your writing soul feel good.