TLY — So the thought I’ve been having (which hasn’t left me as I’ve continued introducing the new character) is as follows:
I am a plot-driven writer, which I think is a big part of why I like writing fanfiction so much. When I’m working with a group of established characters (as with an existing canon), story ideas that fit those specific characters are usually the ones that grip me; though I often have ideas that don’t fit the set of characters I care about, those ideas get pushed into the background (and written down for later) because I’m determined not to work on more than one original project at a time.
But when I am working on an original project, I usually come up with a plot first and characters to fit that plot second. And though naturally the events of the story will dictate some important aspects of characterization — if the plot summary reads, “Then [Main Character], heartbroken, calls in sick to work for three days in a row,” it obviously follows that [Main Character] is the type of person that would be willing to call in sick to work when suffering a certain level of heartbreak — there still remains a huge range of possibility for what type of people inhabit this already-established story.
And because of that, characters in a story I come up with have the potential to be really interesting or really boring. If I worked the other way around — developed the characters first and then let them drive the plot — it would be the story that had the potential to be interesting or boring depending on how much work I put into it. But as it is, I have characters to worry about.
This particular book has a pretty standard setup — lead (with POV), secondary lead, a handful of tertiary characters, and a larger supporting cast. And they all have individual concerns when it comes to characterization.
With my lead, my biggest fear is that I’m making him sometimes a little too savvy on certain points in order to draw the reader’s attention to things, or to make statements, that he might not logically notice or consider. I’ma have to comb carefully for instances of this in editing. I’m not terribly concerned that he’s a boring character — I’m fairly attached to him myself, actually — but I’ll have to get the perspective of those I force the finished draft upon (family and ZG) to get a more unbiased reaction to him eventually.
The secondary lead has been giving me trouble since the beginning, because she’s supposed to be a funny character constantly saying funny things and I have the hardest damn time coming up with funny things for her to say. A lot of her dialogue is going to have to be rewritten after the fact, painstakingly, one line at a time, as I think of better, funnier remarks for her various scenes. Aside from this, my level of concern about her interestingness as a character is the same as for the other lead.
No, it’s the tertiary characters and supporting cast that I’m primarily thinking about here. Most of the tertiary characters will be appearing in subsequent books in the series, and the focus will shift among them so they’ll each get a turn closer to the action. I feel, therefore, that it’s important to give them a solid introduction but not to bury the reader in details about them that aren’t necessarily important at this point — and in trying to strike that balance, to make sure they stay interesting but never threaten to steal the spotlight from the main characters.
And the supporting cast… they’re exclusive to this book and will not appear again, which makes their characterization a unique task. The same need exists to keep them interesting without letting them overshadow the main characters — especially when they’re performing plot-driving actions that make them stand out — but there’s also the added challenge, unlike with characters that will recur, of concisely establishing what they’re like because this is the only time we’ll ever see them.
Of course none of this is anything new or special. The only reason I’m ruminating about it at all is that, when I started considering this new character I’m introducing (she’s exclusive to this book) and what she’s like and how to convey that, I was immediately struck with a couple of examples, one good and one bad, of concise characterization of limited-time-only characters. Somewhat random examples, really; I’m not sure why it was these two scenes that popped into my head. But since they did, I’ll reference them. And actually I may have gone to the trouble of extracting one of them from the DVD when I couldn’t find it on YouTube.
I know, I know, this isn’t an AEL, nor This Faery’s M. Night Worship Hour. The point I want to make is that even a character that only appears for one minute can be written such that she’s realistic and engaging, seems to have an existence beyond the one minute of her life that’s all we’ll ever see of her, and can serve to maintain interest during a scene where the main character, while not overshadowed, is specifically in the background…
Or characters that are going to appear with tolerable frequency throughout a work can be assigned a single blunt trait apiece with no attempt at nuance or realism, annoy the shit out of rather than engaging the audience, and, instead of maintaining interest through a scene necessary to the story, make the entire scene that’s introducing them seem completely superfluous (and annoying as shit).
The point is that I want to write good characters, and the less central those characters are — the less pagetime they get for me to establish what they’re like — the more of a balancing act it becomes. So I’m keeping in mind these two random-ass examples as I work this new character into the story.
Aku Soku Zan(za) part the seventh — This part has reached linear completion, and editing is progressing apace. It feels like kindof a short part, which just reinforces my decision to go chapterless, and also makes it quicker to edit :D Hopefully I can get it finished up and posted next weekend.
I feel like every time I come back around to Tokio’s POV in this rewrite, I’m working through her new and hopefully more nuanced characterization even further. I mean, actually, now that I look at the previous statement, that seems really obvious. But still, it feels interesting to me. I’m liking her a lot better now, and I always liked her before. Can’t wait to get into later parts with even more of her thoughts and development.
The Test — As I mentioned before, it’s all editing now, and I’m on the edit-by-recording stage. This just means I read one part at a time aloud, which allows me to notice and fix details and phrasing problems that don’t stand out as much when I’m just reading in my head. And since I’m forcing myself to edit each part’s recording as I go, I’m also making the complete story audio recording on the way! How awesome is that!
Anyway, I’m on the sixth segment (out of thirteen, though that doesn’t convey much when they’re all different lengths), and it’s been going quite well… but I’ve hit a VERY PREDICTABLE snag.
First off, I want to re-record all of Wufei’s dialogue in this sixth part, but of course I have a cold… lines I’ve altered (or that I misspoke the first time) and needed to re-record are already sticking out like a sore throat. New dialogue will definitely have to wait. And so will recording any more parts; my voice is so crackly and my throat so threatening that I basically can’t get any of this work done right now. It’s extremely frustrating.
I would like to have this story finished by Christmas, as it’s been a while since I had a Christmas present for my peeps, but at this point I’m afraid that’s a pipe dream, since there are only three weekends (including this one) before then. I do have ten days in a row off work at Christmas, though, and this cold had damn well better be gone by then… so it may be a New Year present instead.