Sunday, May 1, 2011
Cast Call for Characters with Beth Daniels
We are very pleased to welcome Beth Daniels, aka Beth Henderson, J.B. Dane who wrote today's post and who continues to mentor and inspire many of the Salon's scouts on a daily basis. Her newest ebook Writing Steampunk could be the only instructional book available dedicated specifically to steampunk fiction. And we thank her for it.
One of the easiest AND toughest things to do is deciding what sort of people will wander around in your story.
Will they be normal...well, relatively normal...humans, paranormal, enhanced creatures, aliens (from other places on Earth, from outer space, from another dimension or parallel universe), will they be lower class, scientists, adventurers, male, female, or something else entirely, aristocrats, politicians, pickpockets, murderers, visionaries...
The list can go on and on. And none of this has anything to do with what they look like, how they move, what quirks of personality are apparent or what sort of background they will need to accomplish -- or survive -- what you intend to throw at them.
It doesn't matter what sort of tale you are about to tell, but it is important to know that the best stories come from who the cast is made up of...what sort of things they are dealing with in the external world and their own internal one as well. Stories that come from character are richer than those that don't.
Take heroes for instance, whether they are male or female or one of those "others" that you might create. They can't be all good but when push comes to shove they do the honorable thing for their fellow beings. Villains will have a lot of the same qualities but they tend to do things for their own benefit. When Heroes and Villains share a number of the same elements it makes for a lovely tug and pull...take Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort for instance. Because they do share some qualities, it has Harry worried for a long time.
The major characters need backup...both good and bad sides. The companions, the sidekicks, the family, friends, co-workers...the minions. These sort of characters.
And finally there are all the "little people", the characters that pass through the story with but one chore...to deliver clues, to get killed, to bring dinner to the table...all things that need to be done for some reason within your story and that can't be handled by the upper rung of characters.
Yes, there is a social structure to your cast: the majors carry the story and the burden of the action, POV, danger, etc.; the secondary rung backs them up, helps out, gets in trouble, helps them out of trouble, whatever is demanded in the plot; then the thirdenary rung fills in all the odd jobs that remain.
Oddly enough, there are far more characters in the thirdenary group than in the other two rungs added together. The trick is to not get carried away and spending too much time describing or stretching scenes with the "little people". Sometimes we simply make then too darn fascinating.
WRITING STEAMPUNK by Beth Daniels
Now Available on KINDLE and NOOK
In Trade Paperback late in June 2011