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Handling a Cast of Thousands-Part I

by Will Greenway Few writing challenges are greater than doing justice to a large cast of characters in a novel or story. In fact, the difference between simply doing them justice and handling them well is a significant level of effort in itself. Sadly, this is one of those writer conundrums that is often best resolved with a "Don't do that if it hurts" solution. Getting a grip on your cast Cast members are reoccurring characters who are pivotal to your story. Aside from your main cast, there will be supporting roles, and often dozens of walk-on or cameo characters. Least significant, but always necessary, are walk-ons and cameos. Because of the limited time these characters spend in the frame, writers tend to make them more exotic, giving them odd quirks or ticks in order to make them interesting. Beware of "extras" with aspirations of star status. Don't promote these exotic latecomers to cast status. Casting couch -- criteria for success A viewpoint character carries a heavy onus.

Handling a Cast of Thousands-Part III by Will Greenway Congratulations: you qualify as legitimate glutton for punishment! You're back for a third installment on managing groups of characters. In this section, we're going to put the things we discussed in parts I and II into motion and give more concrete methods and techniques for putting more snap and verve into those crowded scenes. From Writer to Director: Five-Act Scene Development As we look at composing more elaborate and involved scenes with several protagonists, various walk-ons, and extras, we need a structured approach that will assist us not only in visualizing the scene, but composing and choreographing what will happen within our scene. First and foremost, the scene must have a goal. Sometimes the goal may simply be getting the characters from point A to B. Once you have goal or target, structure events so as to hit that target. ACT I : The establishing shot -- the camera (narrative) eye gives us a quick overview of where we are and who is present. Read More:

Handling a Cast of Thousands-Part II by Will Greenway In the first section of this discussion (Handling a Cast of Thousands), we covered the concept of cast members and the importance of correctly selecting the viewpoints for telling your story. We covered some caveats about viewpoint and their effect on narrative. Lastly, we touched on the concept of foils, group dynamics, and skimmed the basic rules of character interaction and differentiation. It's time to press on toward "virtual layers". The Story Your Characters See You might be thinking that you've always told the story exactly as it happened, right? Freeze! Why? Because you're God (of your fictional universe anyway) and dammit, that's the way it happened. Your narrative has a life of its own. Like the empty-handed fisherman, your characters have ego and motivation to tell the story as THEY see fit. Adding Layers What we are touching on is known by another name: "layering". Past: History as you, the writer, conceived it. Present: Future: How to Do It: Authorial Filtering

Writing a Series Character I was a columnist for The Writer magazine for three years, and all of these articles originally appeared in that publication. Read other articles on writing » So, you’ve got an idea in your head for a fantasy novel, and what you’ve come to recognize as your writer’s intuition—that little “Hey! But, if you do think that you’ve got more than one book brewing, there are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself, and things you need to think about, before you dive in. Is your protagonist better suited to a series versus a standalone novel? In each book in my Raine Benares series, the main conflict from that particular book is resolved at the end, but other smaller conflicts that popped up during the course of that book—and the story arc and the relationships between Raine and the people she knows and encounters—continue to change and grow. What kind of story do you feel compelled to tell? Carry character traits and quirks consistently from book to book. Great character development books:

Developing A Manipulative Character Creating the Hero Where would the Harry Potter series be without Harry Potter, or the Lord of the Rings series without Frodo? What would the Barbarians be without Conan? The hero of a fantasy novel will have a great deal to do with whether the novel succeeds or fails, so it's important to create a good one. Here are some guidelines to help you get started. 1. In some fantasy stories, the hero is not an orphan, but probably wishes to be. In either case, the hero starts out isolated, and thus is vulnerable. 2. 3. 4. 5. Creating a well-rounded and believable hero for your fantasy novel is the key to a story that keeps driving forward and will hold the readers interest along the way. Reference: Stableford, Brian - Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction - Teach Yourself Books 1997 LeFanu, Sarah --- Writing Fantasy Fiction - A & C Black 1996 Writer's Digest Books --- The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference --- Writer's Digest Books 1998

Craft Compelling Characters The source and exact nature of the curious phenomena we refer to as characters remains something of a mystery, but the craft of characterization is not. Although it’s clearly a cause for celebration—or at least relief—when a character appears in the mind’s eye fully formed, the reality is that for most of us, this is a rare occurrence. Certain techniques are required to will our characters to life. We need to draw on the unconscious, memory, the imagination and the Muse until our characters quicken, assume clear form and, with hope, begin to act of their own accord. Can this process—so inherent to the success of any novel—really be condensed into a single method? In my experience as both writer and writing instructor, the answer is, to some extent, yes. The most compelling characters are those who appear internally consistent and yet are capable of surprise. A Driving Need, Desire, Ambition or Goal A Secret We are our own best source for understanding secrets. A Contradiction Vulnerability

The Most Important Things To Know About Your Character Quote from original Author(Beth):This list came about when, one day while struggling to develop a character for an upcoming Hunter game, my lovely roommate Nikki looked at me and said something like, "Wouldn't it be cool to have a list of questions you could go through and answer while you were making characters, so you'd make sure to consider all sorts of different elements in their personality?" I agreed, and that very evening we sat down over hot chocolate and ramen noodles to whip up a list of 100 appearance-, history-, and personality-related questions (which seemed like a nice even number) to answer as a relatively easy yet still in-depth character building exercise. Later on, we went through the list again, took out the questions that sucked (because there were a lot of them) and replaced them with better ones. What you see before you is the result of that second revision. Just don't email us specifically to tell us how much we suck. - Beth

Write Better Characters The very first novel I, aged 20-something, wrote, is unpublished and will stay that way. An ensemble coming-of-age story of four teenagers, its weaknesses are legion: tame story line, thin action, unimaginatively rendered settings, hackneyed themes (though I will say the dialogue wasn’t bad). Having now published seven novels, I look back on that manuscript and realize that underlying the shortcomings I just mentioned lies its principal flaw: poor character development. So I’ve been pleased to read reviews of my latest novels (the Rita Farmer mysteries) that praise the characterization—and I’ve been struck by the number of them that cite the realism of my characters’ relationships. Let’s consider, to start, the categories of relationships we might write in our fiction: Romantic Parent/Child Siblings Aggressor/Victim Rivals/Adversaries Best Friends Boss/Employee Caregiver/Receiver Cop/Criminal Partners (in business, crime, etc.) … and so many more. Everybody has relationships. 1. 2. 3.