Choosing your Characters and how that affects your story.
Hello, Legionaries and fellow authors. Thank you for stopping by. Let’s dive right in.
The means by which your readers will experience the world you’ve created is through the eyes of your characters. To say they’re important is an understatement, so let's start at the top of the list; the main character.
I hate to be a kill joy, but the Highlander movie was right. “There can be only one.” Man, or Woman, dog, cat, it doesn't matter so long as the main character is the point of view the reader gets the most of. They are the heavy hitter in your story. They get all the cool scenes or all the horrific ones depending upon your genre, but this is how your reader will exist in the world you create.
Now, I’m not saying you cannot have some kick-butt supporting characters. Every great epic may revolve around the main character’s experiences, but it would be dreary and dull if it weren't for the accompaniment of the other characters. Just keep in mind that they cannot overtake the main point of view in the story. If that begins to take place, you need to revisit why you chose your main character. It's your work so you can switch them out without any hassle, but to keep the reader hooked — “There can be only one.”
As with all things in life we grow as individuals from our experiences. So too should your characters. Take some time to check out your favorite stories and see that the main character starts at one point (typically emotionally or their world view) and arrives at another point by the end of the book. This growth can be physical, mental, emotional, or a combination of all three. The ultimate goal is that the reader can see how the world around your characters affects them. To establish a bond and generate that life like feel for the reader your characters must respond to the plot.
Another quality of real life that has to be addressed with characters is life span. The simplest way to visualize this is in the old T.V. episodes of Star Trek. Take a good look at the red shirts on the Away Team missions. Anyone sporting that crimson shirt never made it back to the ship and was simply cannon fodder for whatever mess the crew would get into. You should have red shirts in your story too. They can help drive certain points of your tale home or propel the plot in a different direction. However, you have to remember they are red shirts; so, no matter how great they look and sound they are destined to die. So, don’t keep them around too long. An important point to consider is; those supporting characters who are bringing about the plot elements you need the main character to see, can change shirt color too. If your story runs dry for a certain supporting character, don't drag on their existence. You can give yourself a great unexpected plot twist and redistribute your red wardrobe all at the same time.
The last thing I want to touch on is the introduction of new characters. There is an ebb and flow to stories and when a courtship should transpire between the characters and the reader. You have to find the right balance for the reader to be still ok with being distracted from the main character's story to introduce new personalities. A good rule of thumb is by the last third of the book you have your team and your sticking with them. While there is an exception to every rule I find that as a reader, late introductions better be great characters or my connection is limited with them since the main character is my primary point of view.
I hope these thoughts have sparked some great ideas. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. Thank you for stopping by the Legion and have a terrific day!