Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Importance of Cast: Voice and Personality

City of Cards C2.7: Here!

Updated the cast page with Rick and Xander's information. I've got two, maybe three more characters to add before I think I'm done with the main cast. Let's see how I feel ten chapters in, though. I also have yet to set up my scanner so hopefully I'll get to that this weekend since I'll be needing that.

Previously at TWC we learned about chocolate, this week you can find out if we get chips in our brains: vote here

I also accidentally took down the code for my links page while trying to update it so that'll hopefully be back up soon. Sometimes stuff like that just happens.

Thoughts On Writing: Developing Your Cast

Today's post I want to do something a little different and I want to discuss something that is very important to storytelling. Reading Bob's post about lame female characters and it got me thinking about lame characters in general. A good story, especially if it's going to be long-form, is well served by a thoughtfully considered supporting cast.

Each character in your story should add something to the narrative by their own experiences and personalities. Taking the time to give voice to background characters creates a sense of place and context to the story and to the protagonist. By taking the time to consider the lives of characters that may not take center stage you also benefit yourself as a writer and create a deeper personal understanding of your own work.

This is an aspect of world-building that is just as important as knowing how toilets flush or what the bus schedule is. Check out the 30 character challenge. Thirty characters in thirty days. If you have a cast of thirty solid characters to pull from you'll always have someone to give a scene personality. No one needs thirty main characters, but everyone needs a waiter or a grunt or couple arguing on a street corner. This is the life that stories, especially comics, thrive on.

The other reason why a story benefits from this kind of fore-thought is that a protagonist's plight is only served by the context he/she is placed in. Why do they do what they do? Who are their families and friends? What do those people do when they're not interacting with the protagonist? Are they just waiting around like a video game NPC for someone to activate them or are they living, breathing people who have just as interesting and complex stories to tell that will have to wait for another time?

None of this information ever needs to be explicitly stated in story, but it's always evident when a writer has taken the time to understand their characters. The older mentor character was once a cocky asshole himself. The girl on the street corner is worried about paying her rent on time this month. The friendly neighbor used to play sports in high school and wishes he did that again but he doesn't have time because his work keeps him busy.

Let your stories breathe. Surprise your audience by revealing subtle personality quirks and engage the reader by having a universe full of amazing and diverse people.


  1. Thanks for the advice, and for sharing that challenge(hopefully I'll get a chance to try it out in a few weeks when work gets a little less hectic), I hope your west coast adventures are going well!

  2. @becca

    Thanks for reading, I hope that it's useful to someone. I may make more posts on writing in the future since I'm always thinking about the process.

    Also just wanted you to know how much I appreciate your comments. I'm still trying to get settled out here and I have nothing but the best thoughts for all of you out East, especially with all the bad weather you're having.