Monday, November 28, 2011

The Trope of the Week: Loads and Loads of Characters

The very first trope of the week. Walk around, breathe in that new blog feature smell. Like the floors? We spare no expense in providing for your comfort in this new blog feature. My team has thought of everything, so enjoy.

Trope of the Week #1: "Loads and Loads of Characters"

One of my all time favorite tropes. It is also the easiest to figure out because it is what it is. Peruse the page for as long as you like.

For the very small handful of folks out in the world that have read my work, be it from the old BWB Writer's Group reading The Falling Dark to my present slew of betas that took a crack at Winter's Discord, you KNOW how much I LOVE this trope.

Now being a fan of epic fantasy doesn't imply the importance of loving this trope, it necessitates it. I can recall a writing professor once saying that I came from the "Cecil B. DeMille school of storytelling" with a "cast of thousands" and I could not disagree. Martin, Jordan, Erikson, Sanderson, etc. all use this trope. But it's not the only place. Comic book fan? X-Men? Justice League? JSA? The Avengers? Name your poison and there you have it. Television? Battlestar Galactica, Lost, The Sopranos, Oz, your Star Trek of choice, Scrubs, The Muppets, The Simpsons, Family Guy...would you like me to make this Loads and Loads of Loads and Loads of Characters? It's a tried and true trope of modern fiction and done well all the time. So to quote one of my favorites from the above list: "All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again."

As I stated earlier, I've always thought in terms of big casts and epic stories (shocker). I try to think about where is comes from. Why do I think in big terms? Well, obviously my love of mythology and Star Wars has a lot to do with it (talk about loads and loads of characters, mythology is RIFE with them). But there are two things I think that clearly influenced my use of this trope (beside my love of epic fantasy): soap operas and GI Joe. No, really.

I would stay up and watch my mom's shows at night with her. Dallas and Dynasty spring to mind. Lots and lots of characters in those shows (and I defy you, besides setting, to tell me the difference between Dallas and Westeros). Plus, during the summer I would, more than often, I'd watch my mom's daytime soap operas with her. (Days of Our Lives for the curious.) Again, lots of characters. I always found it enjoyable and entertaining. And in terms of story, I think the same way.

Do you remember GI Joe? I'm talking the 3 3/4" Joes. Perhaps the greatest toy ever and where I expanded my story telling chops by miles. I came up with the stories and the special missions for our GI Joes and I assure you I probably came up with better stuff than the writers of the movie. Again, lots and lots of characters. (And I was good, I could come up with whole story arcs concerning the mine sweeper seriously.)

It only made sense that I was attracted to books with massive casts. And it's no wonder I write stories with big casts. I admire people that can write intimate stories. My friend Mike Winchell wrote a wonderful MG story that only has a small handful of characters. I can't do it. I think entirely too big. Even my short stories wind up with too many characters.

Looking at a very rudimentary character list I have for Winter's Discord there are about 150 named characters on that list and there's another list of participants in a significant tourney in the story that contains 96 characters. And I KNOW there are more. That's about 250 characters. It's a number I'm comfortable with and each of those characters have a role to play in the grand scheme of things. I intend to have a character list in my book (either a la George RR Martin-esque family lists or family trees or both) just to help folks follow along.

Sisters of Khoda doesn't have as many characters (I think, I haven't tried to count them), but it has a lot. I have no list for that book and not sure if I am going to have one. But then again the story is less epic and more adventure, so it makes some degree of sense.

I don't have a strong closer for this new feature. It's bound to get better, but here's what I have in mind:

So, I'll have my lists of characters in my book for my readers to fumble and fawn over, trying to make sense of it all in context of the story, what are you going to have?


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