Tag Archives: characters

Fantasy Literature: Many Characters, One Thread

As most (or all) of you know, I recently wrote and published a book entitled “Drasmyr.” It is a dark fantasy novel featuring a vampire named Lucian val Drasmyr. I have previously written about the difficulties that arise when you write novels featuring multiple major characters. However, upon reflection, I think I have had something of a revelation. I think I discovered that you can write about more characters, if you have fewer story-lines. To be honest, I wasn’t aware of this when I wrote the novel, but upon looking back at it, it appears to be true.

 

In my novel Drasmyr, there is really just one vaguely defined main story-line: namely the conflict between Lucian val Drasmyr and the wizards guild. There are a couple other lesser threads in the background (the rise of Korina, to name just one, and the fall of Clarissa, to name another), but each of those fits into the main thread in some fashion. Everything in the story relates to the main thread. And yet, I tell the story from a number of different perspectives. Sometimes, the perspectives are limited to just one or two sections, but throughout the book I bring you in to a number of different characters’ minds. Just to name a few: Lucian (of course), Clarissa, Korina, Coragan, Galladrin, Borak, Regecon, Ambrisia, Toreg, and Mathagarr. That’s ten different perspectives throughout a book that is only 360 pages (according to the kindle stats—450 if you go by the hardcopy in my binder) long. It shouldn’t work (And to be honest, there were a couple complaints, but most of them said that once you adapted, everything clicked into place). But I think it does work because there is only one real story line. It’s like ten different windows looking into the same room. Each has its own unique perspective, but the contents are largely the same and, therefore, do not entail the amount of confusion so many different perspectives would normally engender. There is a cohesive thrust to the story that you can follow regardless of who’s mind you are currently in.

 

Anyway, this brings me to my point: namely, a story needs focus. It needs direction. To that end, there is a balance between story threads and characters that a writer must strive for. I think many “literary” novels have a single main character and a single main thread; this gives you an extremely focused and compelling read. A lot of more modern fiction has a handful of characters, each one with its own story thread. It all makes sense, because the reader only has to juggle a few characters/threads at a time, and this gives you a less-focused, but more complex, and I think equally compelling read. Drasmyr, however, is different from both these patterns. I don’t know if anyone else has written anything with a similar pattern (like I said it was kind of a subconscious thing), but I think it is kind of intriguing to note that. It’s a unique mix of focus and complexity.

 

Anyway, those are my thoughts today.

Fantasy Literature: Multiplying Characters

This is something of a problem that cropped up while working on my latest book. The book, entitled “The Children of Lubrochius,” is the first book in my series, “From the Ashes of Ruin.” If you’ve read “Drasmyr,” “Drasmyr” is essentially the prequel to the series (Yes, I wrote the prequel first.) Anyway, the problem is, or was, that I kept running into problems because I had too many characters. I had most of the characters from the first book, and several new ones. Obviously, I had to make some decisions. I had to separate the major characters from the minor characters and determine who would be shadowed in each section of each chapter. (By “shadowed,” I mean, which character’s point of view I tell that section by).

 

It has been called a weakness of my first book that I jumped around too much. I had sections where I shadowed Lucian, others where I shadowed Coragan, others Galladrin, Korina, Regecon, Clarissa, and still more. Although, many of those were just one or two scenes. The major characters were, of course, Coragan, Galladrin, and Regecon. The main antagonists were Lucian and Korina. It all made perfect sense to me while writing, but I can see how someone could be confused, at least, at first. Eventually, though, it all clicks into place and creates a remarkable story. And, I think, if I were to write it again, I would change very little. However, going forward, as I said, the next book adds a few more characters; so many, that if I were to continue in the same pattern, I’m sure I would lose many readers.

 

So, what did I do? I got out my writer’s chainsaw and did some hacking. J From the four major characters I added, I permitted only one to… uh… not sure how to say it: of the four, one is a major major character, and the other three are too important to be minor characters, but not important enough to get very many chapters told from their point of view. I dethroned two of my previous major major characters, putting them in roughly the same position as those previous three… this is getting confusing. Let’s just say, I juggled the characters around a bit so that I was more focused on which character would be shadowed the most, and which would not. As it stands now, I have again, three main protagonists (Coragan, Ambrisia, and Gaelan (he’s a new guy)) and the same two antagonists (Lucian and Korina). And again, there are a number of minor characters of varying level of importance.

 

What is the point of all this? Limit the number of your characters. Quite simple, really. But not. I have so much to say, and one character is insufficient. Plus, I like weaving multiple viewpoints together. It’s fun. But there is a limit as to how many you can effectively do that with. Again, this is another lesson learned the hard way: plan it out beforehand, you’ll be happier for it. Otherwise, you’ll have to rewrite scenes from one character’s point of view to another. And that is a royal pain.

 

Anyway, I think the traditional novel has but one main character. Many modern series’ though (Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” comes to mind) have many more… although perhaps in the case of WoT, Rand is the main character, but I digress. When you have multiple books through which to develop your characters, you can afford to have more than one major character. But again, keep in mind, that what is clear to you the writer, might not be so clear to the reader. Fifty main characters is definitely out of the question. Seven or so, like in WoT… it can be done, but there is a cost. There’s a reason that series is fourteen books long. And though I loved the series, I will probably never reread it.