Tag Archives: supporting characters

Let’s talk about a different kind of character

I'm kind of swamped for time right now, but I nearly always post on Monday nights. I've been putting this post aside for a few weeks, but I need a quick topic tonight so here goes.

The world is buzzing about last night's episode of Game Of Thrones. I'm sure The Battle of the Bastards will rank as one of the highest rated episodes they have. I want to talk about a different part of the show.

This may be because of some wonderful actors and performances, but I'm developing a couple of new favorites on Game of Thrones. These are supporting characters, but they really appeal to me.

First up is Sandor Clegane, better known as The Hound. This guy has been through some crap in his life. It started with his brother, and wound it's way through many parts of Westeros. He isn't a good guy, and has done some terrible things. Somehow he maintains a sense of justice though. He occasionally manages to do the right thing.

His form of justice is brutal and violent, but he has an idea of what is right. He's crass, he's rude, and I can't get enough of him. Whenever he's around, things are going to happen.

To be honest, I can see similarities with my character Clovis from The Playground. This isn't by design, and The Hound didn't really come into his own when I was drafting the Clovis chapters. The similarity is there though.

I nearly combined Ser Bronn with The Hound, because there are some similarities. Bronn isn't quite the asshole The Hound is, but he's been a warrior all his life. He's seen things. He's done things. He brings a certain male humor to his scenes. He says things that someone who's spent a lifetime as a soldier might say.

My protagonists tend to be kind of stoic, and I like to use colorful supporting characters to lighten things up. Bronn's relationship with Ser Jamie Lanister is styled similarly. Jamie is a little dry, but Bronn lightens the mood.

Bronn has hopes and dreams. He helps Jamie, because he expects lands, a castle, and a woman out of the deal. He's fleshed out quite well in very few scenes. Everybody wants something.

The third one I nearly left off, because he doesn't bring character to the character. He is Gregor Clegane, better known as The Mountain. This is the sibling that gave Sandor Clegane such a hard time growing up. While The Hound is a big dude, The Mountain got his name by being even bigger and meaner.

The Mountain died and was brought back by some arcane magic. He doesn't get lines anymore, and he's kind of like a Frankenstein creation. Imagine an eight foot tall man in golden armor, (with a helmet so you can never see his face) but he's built like a weightlifter not a basketball player.

I like him for a completely different reason. He brings a certain menace to every scene he's in. He doesn't even have to do anything, the sense of foreboding is always there. They accomplished this by selling him well in the first place. Of course tearing someone's head off (literally) on occasion serves to remind us who he is. After that, all he has to do is be in the room and I pay attention.

I have a similar character in The Playground. Their creation is similar, I should say. In Playground, Morley is a poltergeist. A poltergeist can move things around, so they stitched up a body for him to move around. He's kind of moody and can get his feelings hurt, so he differs from The Mountain in that way. Nothing phases The Mountain.

In Game of Thrones fashion, I expect any or all of these characters to come to a bad end. They try to make viewers like someone as a setup to killing them off. I'm not opposed to this, but it would be nice to see one of them survive.

To draw some kind of rushed conclusion, I like colorful characters who support a more serious main character. There is more to The Hound and Ser Bronn than random red shirt characters. We feel for them to a degree.

I also like pending doom. The tension The Mountain brings is wonderful. Now that I know who and what he is, the menace is always present when he's in the scene. This allows the show runners to include dialog and stories from the other characters, but the tension never disapates. It's a neat trick, and you can bet I'll remember it.

Sorry about the rushed quality, but I'm swamped for time. Any of these characters is deserving of an individual post. Has anyone else developed a fondness for these characters, or is it just me?

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Pets in fiction

Charles Yallowitz made a post the other day that really got me thinking. You can check out his post here.

I didn’t realize how many animals I write about. In my mind, they can really enhance a story and provide a few options along the way too.

People have deep connections with pets. This is good, because readers are people. Your pet character can be a source of great emotional pull. Emotions are like rocket fuel to a story. That’s easy to say, but hard to do for someone like me.

The first pet I ever wrote was a giant dog named Pigger. He’s in both of my trunk novels. These are trunk novels for a reason. I free wrote them with no idea what a plot was, or what a character journey should look like. When things got a bit dry, Pigger entered the story. He was the comic relief the story needed. Imagine a big battle scene followed by a narrow escape. Pigger runs through the short grass tossing a dried rhino turd in the air, begging someone to chase him. He’s happy to be alive and wants the main character to be happy too.

I also wrote a whole chapter from his point of view. Try it some time. It isn’t easy, but he rescued his master from a locked mausoleum.

When I wrote Wild Concept my use of a pet was important. Lisa Burton, the robotic main character, knows she’s going to get broken down and studied after her experiment ends. She rescued a huge rabbit that was headed for the butcher shop. The similarity to her own plight demonstrates a lot of her own mindset. Bunny winds up defending himself against a cat. (Think 40lb rabbit with huge back and leg muscles vs. 12lb kitty. The mule kick was awesome.) Lisa thinks, Bunny fought back…hmm.

Lisa also lived alone. I didn’t want page after page of internal thoughts. Turns out she’s an obsessive pet owner, and talks to Bunny.

I didn’t go pet crazy in Panama, but there is a white horse that doesn’t like co-main character Ethan Stafford. Towards the end there is a huge Panamanian beetle that takes up with Jinx, a supporting character. His big scene is to tap out shave and a haircut to alert someone.

I have to admit dropping pets from Arson. I had an alien race that were pretty primitive, but they can think and speak to a minor degree. Therefore, not animals in my mind.

In The Cock of the South, Gallicus the cockatrice fills a pretty big role. He’s a combination, rooster/snake/dragon. He and the main character share similar wounds when they first meet. I had him act somewhat catlike in a few scenes. He’s a great comfort to the main character, and also provides a few world building scenes. Then there is his big scene and he delivers.

In Will O’ the Wisp I used a fox. The fox is there throughout the story, but doesn’t become important until the very end. It makes a statement about the main character’s evolution and provides a certain cute factor all at once. (Right when the story needed a cute scene too.)

In my mind, pets are supporting characters. You can make them main characters if you like, but I don’t. They can serve as a metaphor, comic relief, backup to the main character, and all kinds of uses.

I don’t believe in killing the pet character. I can see why authors do, because it can really galvanize a main character. (Make sure your readers will weep when it happens.) It can also symbolize the beginning of something new in the main character’s life. I just think it’s been done to death, and look for an alternate way. I’m not saying I never will kill a fictional pet, just that I prefer something else. I even went so far as killing my main character instead. I won’t spoil it and tell you which book. (Trust me it’s good.)

Right now, I’m writing another dog character. He’s with another loner, and provides something to talk to. He gets a few funny moments, and a few heroic ones too.

Ethan’s white horse was just a horse. He was a breathing prop in the story. Bunny, the rabbit filled an important role. Once the animal goes from prop to pet you can never go back. From that point on you have a new character. Remember to include them in your scenes.

Pets work well as plants that payoff late in the story too. A dog can pee on a bully’s pant leg at exactly the right time for your main character to fight back. The dog knew it was time all along. He might even pitch in if needed.

Granny’s pet toad can say volumes about Granny’s secret membership in the local coven. You probably won’t even have to spell it out. (Spell, I crack myself up sometimes.) The old house cat can deliver a human ear to your main character to start the mystery rolling. The mynah bird keeps repeating some nonsensical phrase over and over. Turns out it’s an important clue to your mystery, and his dead owner used to say it.

Crank up the emotions by having your character rescue an abused animal. Remember to let the animal pay her back

Lisa & Doubt

My blog isn’t immune either. Doubt, the raven, is a regular on my blog. Where would my editing be without a healthy portion of doubt. Is that a metaphor?

Try adding animals to your stories. Even Mad Max had a dog and that was pretty dystopian.

Do you write animals into your stories? Are they pets or props? Tell me about them in the comments.

 

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Meanwhile, out at the writing cabin

I grabbed up my critiques from Thursday and headed for the cabin. The basement corral was full of mountain cows. Tiny little creatures about three feet tall and covered with long hair mooed at me as I tromped upstairs. Lisa* found someone to fill in for her.

The plant at the foot of the stairs slurped in a mouse tail like it was a noodle. “Hrmph,” sounded at the top of the stairs.

Iris**, the fairy, was riding Bunny like a horse. “Those plants are disgusting.”

“You keep Bunny away from my plants, and don’t let Lisa catch you riding him.” I tromped upstairs following muddy boot tracks all the way. “We need to send off a couple dozen emails, and maybe plow through my critiques.”

“Hey! There he is, by golly.” Roald***, the dwarf hugged me and lifted me off the floor.

“Good to see you again, Roald. How’s the wife?”

“She’s good too, by golly. She makes you some cheese, and Uncle sends anodder brick of scrapple.”

“I tried to call. Did you cook anything? I need some coffee too, we’ve got some work tonight.”

“I didn’t hear you. That stupid bell thing kept ringing and ringing.”

“Yeah, it’s called a telephone.”

“Pretty fancy bell, I tink. When you got cheese and scrapple, you don’t need nothin else either. I bring some dwarven beer too. You don’t need no coffee with that, by golly.”

I nodded toward the office, and Iris reined Bunny toward the desk. When she got close, she fluttered up to the desktop, and landed on her butt.

“Hey, you flew,” I said.

She rotated her shoulder and stood up. “Yeah, but I have to land like a little kid.”

I fired up my Mac and grabbed the first critique. This one was all about choosing more descriptive words. I did a word search for this section, and that’s as far as I got.

The enchanted beer horns came running with Roald in hot pursuit. “Grab one of them beers and I’ll drink the odder one. We’s a gonna have a good time tonight.”

I scooped the beer horn up to the desktop. It waggled its tail and slid the Mac off to the side.

Iris found an old thimble and rapped it on the side of my beer horn. I filled it for her.

It isn’t every day a man gets genuine dwarven beer. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.

* Lisa is the main character in Wild Concept. She’s a robot and helps me around the cabin these days. (She’s out for a week or so right now.) Bunny is her pet rabbit.

** Iris is a supporting character in The Cock of the South. She’s a fairy, and staying at the cabin until her wing heals up.

*** Roald is a supporting character in The Cock of the South. He is a dwarven tribesman, and isn’t part of one of the main kingdoms. He has a thick accent, but I’m used to him. (His dialect isn’t written out in the book. This is a blog post, and I wanted to save words.)

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Casting your Novel

I don’t mean casting it into the deleted files. I mean with actors you already know, or people around you.

I never actively try to do this, but every once in awhile someone sneaks in. They are never the main character, and it usually doesn’t happen until the character already has some dialog on the page. It happens occasionally when I read someone else’s work too. I just start hearing the voice, it doesn’t change my visual about the character.

I suppose this could happen with any length of writing, I just don’t stray from novels. One time I was reading a pretty mediocre bit of fantasy, and one of the characters developed the voice of Jeremy Irons. I thought it was weird, until it happened to a couple of my own characters.

Like I said, it always seems to occur with supporting characters. My first one was the voice of Gregory Peck; no idea why. Since then Danny Glover, Michael Ironside, and others have just started voicing my characters. (In my mind.)

I hope it’s a sign the character has become more realistic, that he or she has risen to a higher level. If that’s the case, maybe I ought to be worried for my main characters. I always worry that I’ll start writing the character for the actor and lose something in the story. What about the rest of you, confessions and advice are both welcome.

I may be strange, but I’ll bet I’m not the only one out there who experiences this. Does this happen to any of the other writers out there? Should I be worried about losing the character to the actor?

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