1. kuhlman30

    kuhlman30 New Member

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    How would I go about making characters' roles more significant?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by kuhlman30, Nov 29, 2016.

    So I currently have nine core characters. Of the nine, there's only really 3 characters who have dynamic, significant roles, one of which you could call the main protagonist. I need advice on how I should give other characters more important roles in the plot, and kind of bring to life the meaning of "main" character.

    Thanks.
     
  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    How have you determined that you have nine core characters? It really sounds like you have THREE core characters.

    Of course, you can change things in order to give more meaningful roles to the others - give them their own goals, their own backstories, their own reasons for doing what they do - but is that necessary or advantageous? Three main characters is already quite a few. Why do you think you need nine of them?
     
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  3. kuhlman30

    kuhlman30 New Member

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    Well, core characters as in characters that will appear the most. I want to do something with like flashbacks for each character, so you have background on each of them. Like Lost.
     
  4. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I think it's important to think about the current action(s) of your characters in the storyline. It's very easy to get lost in backstory. When you are dealing with a good amount of characters make sure they all have an active part main story. I find this far more important than the role of any backstory. But as we know nothing about your story and these nine characters, I don't think there is to much advice any of us can give you. It doesn't sound like you are too far into the actual writing. Maybe if you start to just write out the story, the significance of each character will sort of present itself and get fleshed out.
     
  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Why do you want the other six?
     
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  6. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Welcome to the site!

    Maybe "3 main characters, 6 secondary characters" would work better? In my Doctor Who fanfic, I had about a dozen wow, 9 – weird – protagonists, but only 5 of them got POV time.
    Captain June Harper (12,750 words)
    Damien Mitchell (15,250 words)
    Nathan Durst (7,000 words)
    Arachne

    Kyra Sylvan (20,000 words)
    Alpha / "The Agent"
    Beta / "Kathryn"

    Shanjik (8,000 words)
    Skeerse
    Though if you do absolutely need 9 main characters, I would recommend pairing off 2 of the protagonists, looking for at least 1 similarity and 1 difference, then doing the same with the other combinations of characters.

    Is this a one-shot or the start of a series?
     
  7. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    Nuuu... Nuuuuuuuuuuu!!

    Flashbacks are evil. They're EVIL! Please believe me!

    As creators I totally, totally understand: we love creating characters and backstory and goals and ambitions and things that we think are cool. We love writing life into characters, we love giving them diversity and lore and love and hopes and dreams. We love telling people about the things we worked so hard to make!

    But that has no place in a story.

    A story is the recount of a characters reaction to danger. The point of a story-- a story you want other people to read--is to take the Reader on an feels-centric journey. It's to spend an entire book building up tension and drama and EMOTION in the Reader, and then releasing that tension in the conclusion. The best stories, the ones where people can't put the book down, chose a character, give her a goal, and then roadblock the heck out of her achieving that goal for chapters and chapters as she progressively gets into deeper and deeper trouble. No choice is good, the only option is the lesser of two evils. Then the Climax! The MC earns or fails to earn her story goal! And then, finally, when the main character either achieves or fails to achieve their goal, the Reader acknowledges the result was brought about by the characters actions, and feels a sense of 'rightness' at the conclusion.

    In order to get that effect, in order to properly build that tension, there is room for the MC and precious, precious few others. The Reader needs a focus--someone's skin to wear. That's the point of an MC. 9 of them will be too confusing. Even if they're your children, even if you love them, even if you want to write about them, if you want to EXPLAIN them, a story where they aren't the main character or one of a MINIMUM amount of supporting characters is not the place for it.

    I love you, I know you write well. I know your characters are interesting and exciting and fulfilling. I know you've spent time and effort developing them, and that you want to share them. I empathize with that because I, and a ton of other people, do the exact same thing. Thats why I want to spare you a jumbled mess of flashbacks and uninteresting backstory. Choose a Main Character to follow on a journey, to write a story about. Include only characters that HELP or HINDER that specific journey.

    Too much anything detracts from the overall value of that thing.
     
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  8. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Okay, I was going to suggest you cut down the number of characters, but now I want to react to @Infel's overstatement by telling you nine characters is just FINE! :p

    I don't think flashbacks are evil. I think they have their place. And I think there are loads of successful books with lots of characters.

    But... are you writing for publication or for fun? You sound like a fairly new writer, and you've set yourself a really ambitious project. Is it too ambitious?

    It also seems like you're coming at this from a weird angle. If someone told me they had nine characters that needed to be in the book, I'd assume those nine were all vital to the plot. But you say only three of yours have "dynamic, significant roles". So that doesn't sound like they are all vital to the plot. So then I'd assume that they had to be included because they were such great characters with such depth and richness that you couldn't bear to cut them... but it doesn't sound like that's the case either?

    Can you explain how you came up with the need for nine significant characters?
     
  9. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    There's your trouble.

    You're thinking that the way they do things on a soap-opera type series is how an author creates a work of art. It isn't. A soap opera is interested in getting you to keep watching, so they create loads of core characters - there's gotta be ONE in there that you love, right? - and alternate them as the MC from week to week.

    Now, if you're planning a GoT style epic, you may need that many characters. But GRRM didn't introduce them and then - later - flashback to build up their backstory. He introduced them all as big players in a big production.
     
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  10. terobi

    terobi Senior Member

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    Not quite - that's how you end up with a bit of a mess, where nobody really knows who anyone is or what they're all doing.

    If you go back and read A Game of Thrones you'll notice that it doesn't start with fifteen POV characters dotted throughout the land. It starts with the Stark family. We get to know the Starks and their place in the world, and then we zoom out and start seeing it through other people's eyes. Throughout, though, the Starks are our anchor, and it's their story we're following for the most part.
     
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  11. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Nine seems a bit overwhelming to take on all at once.
    I found out just how challenging it is to keep up with
    three. Though I have a medium size supporting secondary
    casting, and a small tertiary support cast.

    I am going to have to agree with @terobi , that you would
    have a bit of a mess and be hard to follow.
     
  12. terobi

    terobi Senior Member

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    To answer the OP specifically, if they don't need to be "main" characters, then don't make them mains. They're secondary characters, and you can redraft to make that the case. This will almost certainly make your book easier for readers to follow.

    If you're trying to do something large scale, then take your cues from GRRM; there is nothing to stop you taking a secondary character here and pulling them into the spotlight for the next book. There's nothing to stop you adding more POVs when your readers are familiar enough with your existing ones that they can follow it easily. So start small, ideally with a single focus, and expand outwards later.

    All you're doing by throwing all these characters at your readers immediately is ramping the learning curve up so steeply that you'll confuse readers.

    And I say this as a gigantic hypocrite, currently working on a WIP with six main characters - though for the majority of the book they're lumped into two story threads, with half of them in one place, and half in another, before combining later. And yes, I am planning on removing two, adding one and promoting a secondary to a main if I ever get around to writing book 2 (I see no point committing to writing book two if book 1 turns out to be unpublishable).
     
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  13. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    And honestly, even with someone as experienced as GRRM, I think he's lost control of his story in the Game of Thrones series. Maybe that's the reason it's taking him so long to write the next book - he's let it sprawl into something completely unmanageable.
     
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  14. terobi

    terobi Senior Member

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    Well, quite. It's what happens when you end up stretching a trilogy into seven books - you end up with a lot of storylines that just need to tread water for years, so you find something else for them to do... You end up with Brienne spending entire books just trudging around the landscape, and chapter after chapter of unnecessary Kingsmoot toss.
     
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  15. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    I managed with twelve, with seven introduced in the first three chapters. Three more played initially very minor roles two as background deckhands on the ship and one as the Chinese delegate, which expanded later. Two more were introduced later and played brief but key roles in the story. For one, I needed a person who could speak both Greek and Chinese, and come and go freely around the palace compound... A Buddhist monk from Bactria fit nicely, and Demosthenes also spoke Bactrian, which came in handy as they exited China. The other was a Xiongnu warrior woman, who played a key roles in shaping the heroine, and despite her short time on stage, became everyone's favorite unexpected character. They all had interesting backstories, but these were developed in dialogue among themselves or with others as required in a setting that made sense. The monk, for instance, had been in the Bactrian Army, where he developed a distaste for violence (revealed when he talked about why he became a monk, didn't like saying more about it), and had some training in field medicine (revealed and came in handy when an MC was severely wounded). Don't introduce their backgrounds all it once, let it out in dribs and drabs to explain why they act or feel as they do.

    Being a pantser, these characters developed and moved on their own trajectories, which my readers all liked for the complexity and unexpectedness. I could never have planned them all out ahead of time or I would never have started.
     
  16. hawls

    hawls Active Member

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    You want 9 core characters who are equally important, with character arcs relevant to (and have meaningful impact on) the plot, and you want to explore flashbacks for each of them?

    The only advice I can give is to pick one character.

    Now for every other character describe why they are important to that one character from that single character's perspective. It could be something about their dynamic, or their relationship. Maybe they work together, or are friends, or enemies.

    Once you've done that, move onto the next character and for every other character including the character you just did describe their importance to each other from that character's perspective. Because that character might see the same relationship differently.

    Once you have a better idea of how all these characters fit together you'll feel more confident about the significance of the role each of them play.
     
  17. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Your idea about flashbacks reminded me of 'fields of fire' by James Webb - set during the Vietnam war he has two major principal characters Platoon leader LT Hodges, and Squad leader "Snake" through who's eyes the majority of the story is told , however he starts each chapter with a flash back describing the back story of one of his supporting characters explaining how they came to be in the US Millitary and deepening their characters
     
  18. pamedria

    pamedria Member

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