1. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    Help with the crew

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Mr. Blue Dot, Mar 29, 2011.

    So, I've been struggling in coming up with a few characters for my story. I think I have 3 of them down I think, and about half of the fourth, but there are six characters total.

    I like to call them a survey crew. They pretty much fly out to objects in the Kuiper belt and give an initial assessment of how valuable the resources in the object could be, whether it's profitable to start mining, stuff like that.

    ***

    1. So far I have their pilot, Jason Proteus. His roll is pretty self explanatory, he flies the crew around. He holds records for furthest manned flight from the sun. He's never been to closer to the sun than Neptune's orbit, and for all his life the sun has looked no different to him than any other star, which drives certain aspects of his personality. I have a pretty good feel for this character, I don't need much help with him. I'm not sure if Jason is the best name for him, but I'm keeping Proteus because a few times in the story he is referred to as the "old man of the sea."

    2. Then I have David Medved. I just chose the name of a physicist with an awesome name to call him temporarily, I don't really want to use it. The character himself is very big and bear-like in stature (hence medved). His job in the crew is that of a equipment consultant, his reports tell the company how to configure and outfit mining equipment sent to the object he's surveying. How should machines be adapted for the terrain/gravity/special conditions? it's his job to answer those questions. This is another character I have mostly figured out, but like I said, I could use help with a name, and probably something more creative to call him than equipment consultant. It might be important to note that he was born on the Russian Mars colonies.

    3. The third one is my half character. Her name is Fei Mefeng, and I have a lot of her backstory figured out. She was born on Earth, of Chinese ancestry, and was raised and educated there. She used to take dancing lessons when she was younger, and she likes to dance in zero-g. At this point in the story she's four years out of university, and she misses her family, but she's working so they can live in luxury. What I haven't figured out with this character is what her job should be. I was thinking maybe she should be a mineralogist, or something that would be able to tell what resources can be extracted from a KBO. She goes to the surface, grabs samples, then identifies what's in them.

    4. This is where the characters start becoming difficult for me, because I'm not sure what would be useful for this crew. I originally thought that this character should be a geologist(?), somebody that could tell how the KBO will behave geologically, and where potential mining sites could be located. But I'm not sure that this is what a geologist does ha ha. But I don't really know if this is useful, it seems like it would be in my mind, but I could very well be wrong. I could use some suggestions with the role that this character could play in the team. Backstory and personality will be easy to figure out, just so long as I can figure out the purpose of this character.

    5. The fifth character is a lot like an EMT. There in case of injuries, or any other medical complications that come up during a flight. I'm seriously toying with the idea of this character being a robot auto-doc. I'm kind of thinking that I don't need a full character to fulfill this role, and really just giving this job to a robot makes sense in my universe because then it can become standard equipment on every ship and station. But, I also like the idea of giving it a limited AI, and making it act in quirky robotic ways (like trying to dress up a minor cut on a character while they are in the middle of an important task, constantly giving reminders about diet, exercise, and the effects of microgravity, ect.). This way it's an object, but I can still inject a little bit of "personality" into it that will make it enjoyable for the reader instead of just another prop.

    6. The sixth character is a living ship that the crew finds completely covered in rogolith and rock. She (the ship is organic, and female) visited the solar system before the planets had even formed around the sun, but an attack killed her old passengers, and disabled her. She's been floating around the sun for 4.3 billion years gathering debris from the suns accretion disc along her hull until she looked just about like any other object in the Kuiper belt (at first glance). The crew accidentally wakes her up when they find and board her, and that's pretty much where their adventure starts. She has a personality, and she's able to communicate directly with the crew after learning the language. I'll admit it, she's inspired by Moya from Farscape, but I don't want anyone thinking I'm just ripping FS off. I've put a lot of thought into this character and where she fits in this story. But I can't really think of a good thing to name her! Any suggestions here? I'm thinking two names, the first being a radio burst or something that humans can't pronounce or hear. The second name is one she chooses for herself that the humans can actually use (maybe it's a translation? maybe it's just sounds she finds pleasant in english? I'm having a bit of writers block with the name).

    ***

    So I'm just looking for some thoughts and maybe a little brainstorming to help me find out more about these characters. Maybe you can't tell, but I'm terrible at naming people and things ha ha.

    But more importantly, I'm concerned with all the roles that the characters will play. I want them to be what would "realistically" be sent to scout out an asteroid for a mining company. I don't know how far off the mark I am with this crew though, and I'm open to any suggestions anybody has.
     
  2. Finhorn
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    Finhorn Senior Member

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    You don't have a mechanic. If equipment breaks who's going to fix it? Likewise, if the ship is unique, should some major government / corp seized it. Or at least insisted that some kind of a biologist be on board in case it gets ill.

    Besides that my only advice on characterization at this point is to write chapter one. It's true that you should know more about your characters than the audience needs to but so much of that comes from need. In the story you may find that you need an anthropologist to help with the remains of a second living ship. But you won't know until you get there. It's a bit of a pain to go back and give your pilot a dual major but I think it''ll work better than tying to create the perfect crew. Besides, a lot of plots hinge on the characters not having the right tool for the job.
     
  3. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    David Medved as part of his backstory used to be in the Ares Army, where he worked as an engineer, from there he went to work with inner system mining outfits as a mechanic and got to know the tools of the trade extremely well, which is why he is now a consultant. He can handle any mechanical duties the crew comes across.

    As far as a government or corp trying to seize the ship, they literally don't have time. The object was randomly spotted on a routine surveying mission (it stands out as odd to the pilot, and he's seen more of the kuiper belt than anyone), they landed, then when they accidentally wake up the ship, it has a "seizure" and jumps them half way across the universe, with no knowledge of how to get back.

    I'm about 2000 words into chapter one. I'm slow, I only write about 500 words a night in the story proper ha ha. But I have about 10 pages of notes so far, including story branches, major events character descriptions ect. So, I'm getting there, but I find myself essentially pushing back and hiding these details I don't know yet, and it's kind of awkward. I've just introduced Fei into the story, which is why she's only half done.

    There's a problem with having a biologist or anthropologist in the crew though. This is a mining company, they aren't exploring trying to find alien life. They're much more interested in metal rich asteroids, and resources for nuclear applications. There isn't a need for those types of experts if you're just looking for rocks.

    These guys aren't soldiers or super scientists either. I'm trying to make these guys "normal people" from the 22nd century, a group of professionals, brought together by work for a fairly specific task: Mining.

    I think I pretty much have a handle on how I'll deal with health problems of the ship, don't worry. I'm not going to give to much away, but I do have a scene planned where the ship will be badly injured. I plan on exploring as many cool things as I can with the concept of a living ship, trust me :D

    You hit the nail right on the head. This story is about humanities first contact. Normally you would want to send xenobiologists, language specialists, ect. But you can really only do that if you are able to plan and anticipate it. The characters I'm creating ARE the wrong tools for the job and this is really what I want to explore with this book, the idea that first contact will be sudden with no chance to prepare for it. I find the concept of humanity getting caught completely with it's pants down to be fascinating for some reason.
     
  4. Louis Farizee
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    Louis Farizee Member

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    Do a search for Five Man Band on TV Tropes and get back to us. You will find this much easier.
     
  5. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    I don't see really how that makes it any easier to figure out who would realistically be sent to examine an asteroid for a mining company.
     
  6. Louis Farizee
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    Louis Farizee Member

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    Well. Writing got a lot easier for me when I discovered that website. When writing any sort of "crew", it helps to visualize the Five Man Band: Lead Singer, Lead Guitar, Bass, Drums and Vocals. They are established character types and being able to catagorize the main characters like this help you listen to the characters, and then they almost seem to write themselves.

    Just explain how most functions are carried out by automated systems or have most jobs handled by faceless extras. If you're writing a group dynamics story, keep it tight by having a small, strictly limited group of five.

    Just my advice.
     
  7. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    What kind of world does this take place in? Future, past, alternate present? What major events happened in the history of this world and do they have any effect on the crew's life or their upbringing?

    I always enjoyed hearing the back stories of the characters on Firefly. And you know people bolted for the shelves when Shephard Book's tale came out.

    Might be nice to have a "mysterious" character that doesn't tell a lot of his story up front, for whatever reason.
     
  8. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    I understand what you're getting at here, but that's not the question I'm asking. What I'm asking is: If you want to find iron/gold/whatever in the ground who do you send?

    It's a pretty specific question.

    The problem I have with this is that if I were to do this, essentially my professional characters become nothing more than burger flippers in space. That's not really what I'm going for.

    Not to mention it's just these four people and the auto doc going on the survey mission, so there isn't room for any faceless extras.
     
  9. Finhorn
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    Finhorn Senior Member

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    I recommend "Pandora's Legions" by Christopher Anvil. In a reversal on the theme an ancient alien race invades 1990's Earth only to learn that humans are significantly smarter than they are.

    I'm glad to hear that you've started writing it. 500 words a night isn't slow. When your ready, pop up the first chapter or so in novels.
     
  10. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    One thing I noticed,
    You don't have a munitions or person to get the items from the soil.
    Core extraction specialist?(core samples)

    You have the medical covered, I agree you should have a mechanic.

    The strong worker to move the big items, possibly the mechanic when not working on the machines.(da grunt)

    Munitions or core specialist could be the weapons specialist if they are armed.

    With a small a great distance from other assistance, crew has to rely on themselves, the crew must cover several jobs, not just one specialty.
     
  11. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    Thank you for that! I've changed Fei's job to pretty much this because it's a lot more specific than a mineralogist. Besides, small girl, big drill... kinda hot.

    I've got that covered. What little human equipment the characters have with them during the course of the story will be able to be repaired and maintained. But I'm not having characters who are capable of repairing ultra-advanced alien technology, it's just not realistic in my head. If alien tech breaks around the characters, that's it, they better throw it away and hope it doesn't explode or something :D

    I'm not going to be focusing too much on small arms in this story. The ship has weapons, but she also knows how to use them, they're kind of like hands and fingers to her. But for scenes where it does come down to small arms, David will have his military training to fall back on.

    I accept your challenge! :p

    I've been noticing that a lot of movies and books lately love them some super characters. She's a hot scientist who can fire a gun with computer precision, and just at home in a lab as she is repelling down the side of a sky scraper with an assault weapon. He's a single father / forensics expert who just leaped from a second story window to tackle the killer. It's all a bunch of BS. Real people aren't like that. I can't relate to super-characters, so I'm not going to be writing any. Being unprepared doesn't automatically equal characters being incompetent though. In my experience, people are generally good at improvising in situations where they have no previous experience.

    Besides, it's more fun to read about plans going horribly wrong, and unexpected outcomes anyway.
     
  12. Finhorn
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    Finhorn Senior Member

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    I'm going to have to disagree with you here. It's true that real people aren't like that, but real people want to be. We want to tell ourselves, "Yeah I could use a murderer to break my fall," or "I'm innovative, with a little work I could be an expert in my field."

    Look at Firefly (If you haven't seen the show I recommend it). On the surface, they are ordinary people flying around in an ordinary spaceship. They fight, gamble, drink, lust, and fall prey to the normal fallacies of man. None of them are the best at what they do, but all are pretty good.

    Each character however proves themselves larger than life (but not all the time) and that's why we love them. After we've had the chance to identify with their faults, we want to see them succeed. We want them to be a little better than the rest so that we can think "I'm like them, I could be a littler better than the rest."
     

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