Friday, September 16, 2011
Focusing on One Character
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?