Friday, September 16, 2011

Focusing on One Character

I live in a crowd.

That’s not a bad thing, just a statement of fact. Seven siblings and everyone staying home for school can do that. It’s my band, my team. But a crowd nonetheless.

I’ve also tended to write in crowds. Part of this is because my first stories were more transcriptions from games we played with friends--and, well, when everyone who plays the game gets a character, you get a crowd.

Betsy Flowain, the heroine of (surprisingly) Betsy Flowain, had four siblings in the final draft. In the original she had five. It’s hard to develop four ally-like characters, so the truth is I didn’t much. Jarvis was the main one developed. Besides the siblings, I surrounded her with an army of allies.

Marian was (and remains) a single child, only living with her father. But she ends up in a forest surrounded by men. Again, I had a crowd that I didn’t develop that much beyond its principle players: Much and Robin. Will and Timothy stood out a bit, but everyone else acted rather like a prop to a play--just a lump of cardboard in the shape of people that I could move around however I liked.

I wonder if this tendency towards crowds has affected the way my heroes seemed to be outshined by their side characters in my books. Jarvis was more interesting than Betsy, and more people adored Robin than Marian (though in all honesty he deserves adoring. And I just put this in to annoy him.*).

In Quintessence, I have focused on one character. He has his supports, but he’s usually cut off from them, fending for himself in the search for truth and the struggle with the villain. He doesn’t get much help, and the audience has to live most of the time just focusing on him doing things--not necessarily interacting with other characters. Chapter 2 consists almost entirely of him trying to escape his room.

It’s a bit hard to hold the tension there, I’ve realized. I’m used the conflict of other people, especially after writing Forest of Lies, where Marian and Robin are always at each other, or usually, Marian’s at Robin.

Hywel has more focus. More gumption. More guts. He’s taking the story in his hands and changing things right and left. He almost literally demolished a difficulty that I/the villain threw at him in chapter 5. Undistracted by fellow characters, he’s grappling more effectively with the theme and the villain.

Forest of Lies was very much a relationship-centric book, and I think it belongs that way. However, I’m enjoying how Quintessence is centered on one character and his attempts to escape a world he knows is wrong. I’ve found his character developing very rapidly in the intense but fascinating place with no crowd. Part of the theme I want to get across is the empty world--a shell, with not much living in it. Hywel thrives in the almost constant spotlight on him--someone truly seeking, truly living.

Do you write crowds or solo heroes? Do you think it might be effected by the size of your family?

*It's a running joke/feud/argument. Yes I have running jokes with characters. Yes I'm weird. Over it now?


Josiphine said...

My books either have very few characters, or so many that I can't shape them all properly. I also came to the conclusion that it's from my 7+ siblings, :) I have a book half-finished somewhere about a girl adopted by a family who already have 12 kids. It's a lot of fun to write, :)

Katie S. said...

You have an interesting point here. I don't have as many siblings as you, but I've still always leaned towards writing more than one main character.

Nairam said...

@Josiphine: Wow, that's a lot of kids to work with. O.O Ha...

@Katie: I think "more than one" is normal. I just noticed my tendency towards LOTS "more than one". It's not exactly a point as much as a musing. :) It may or may not have to do with my siblings...

Annie said...

I miss the FoL characters, first of all. u_u They're all amazing.

As for me, I tend to write in a middle ground between crowds and loners. I never really thought about it before, but I guess that might have something to do with the size of my family. My sister, my parents, and I are really close, so I gravitate towards writing groups of four characters more often than not. My hero for my OYAN is more of a loner than Chris is, she has two allies instead of the three that were in Acrewood, and she shuts herself off from them more.

Anywho, I'm rambling. I can't wait to see what happens with FoL, especially in the character department. Yay for more Much!

Josiphine said...

I was reading your 'essential' page, and was just wondering why we SHOULDN'T watch the third season of the Armstrong Robin Hood. My family is watching it right now, and we are curious, :)

Oh, and have you ever thought of doing a review of 'Outlaws of Sherwood' by Robin McKinley? I just finished it and would love to know what you, as a 'expert' think of it. :)

The Everything Soap Blog said...

You have a lot of amazing points here.

Nairam said...

@Annie: I miss them too, but then again it seems I always do. I seem to like close groups of three and four as well, though there are bigger groups around those circles. FoL of course had three characters centered together--the same is true of _Worthless_. Maybe I like groups of three!

@Josiphine: Because it's not very good. Something very bad happens at the end of series 2, and the show just kinda falters after that. Some of my favorite characters were gone and I didn't like Robin as much either...or Guy. Which I didn't really like in the beginning, but anyway. Also the Sheriff is very, VERY annoying by that point, and it has a lame finale. You don't miss much if you just stop at the end of series 2.

I have. I read it a couple of times awhile back and its certainly on my shelf again. I just need to make myself pick it up/find time to pick it up. I want to read the whole thing again before I review it.

@Everything Soap Blog: Thanks!

Godsgirl95 said...

@Annie: *gaspeth* My AR!!! *glomps* :D This is the first time I've seen you outside OYAN!

Back on topic, I tend to write in crowds. My first book (which is sitting patiently waiting for me to pick it up, dust it off, and start editing it. Poor dear thing.) has a group of characters (two allies that grows to four plus the Mentor) around the hero. My second, though, has one ally, the Mentor, and one other character that is almost a mix of both. The one I'm working on now I think will be in between. I don't know if it is because of the size of my family or not. I only have one sib(my beautiful sister) and so far, all of my books involve a girl with a brother or brothers and not a sister XD This is a very interesting thought. I love reading your blog, Nai :D
(I need to find time to read FoL. I HAVE to.)

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