Monday, October 14, 2019

Balancing Characters: A Writing blog

I've been watching Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman recently (and seriously, look at her in costume? Wouldn't you?) and found it curious. For some reason, I had always remembered Steve Trevor was the damsel in distress that had to be saved every episode. Though watching it now for the first time in three decades, he was fairly well-balanced against a superheroine that deflects bullets. Even though he was often the damsel in distress, it was largely because he was taking on more than made sense to handle solo (taking on a half dozen guys in hand to hand combat? No, not a great idea). He was smart, capable, and occasionally was even allowed to save himself. He even had to serve the plot and tackle some villains because Wonder Woman couldn't be in two places at once. She was feminine. He was manly. The occasional "Sisterhood is strong" message was stilted even coming out of Carter's mouth, and she was apparently never to the left of Mitt Romney. (Yes, I know what I said.)

I only bring it up because I enjoy balancing my characters. I also enjoy having a cast of characters. The latter I probably got from Babylon 5 -- a large swath of people of different viewpoints who can come up with interesting dynamics when combined in different permutations.

One of the reasons that A Pius Man had so many various and sundry people is that they were built up over time... well, they were built up as I wrote the books.

When I wrote the novels, they were in the following order

  1. Summer Death Camp (A Matthew Kovach Mystery)
  2. HT  (coming soon)
  3. It Was Only On Stun!
  4. Too Secret Service 
  5. Dances With Werewolves 
  6. Night of the Assassins 
  7. The Pius Trilogy

Those books included characters from all over the place.

  • Sean AP Ryan and Maureen McGrail you saw in It Was Only On Stun! 
  • Blaine Lansing and his girlfriend Jennifer Lane were in Too Secret Service as a subplot.
  • Matthew Kovach and Jonathan Koneig ... gets around.
  • The Williams family and Giovanni Figlia are from the Too Secret Service series.
  • Scott Murphy shows up in Night of the Assassins.

So A Pius Man was actually supposed to be the end of six other books which is why you might have found some of the balance a little off.

But by and large, I prefer to give everyone some airtime. X person gets screen time because they're smart. Y person gets screen time because they're doing all the fancy shooting.

With the Love at First Bite series, I take plenty of time to balance out the bloodthirsty natures of both characters. The first half of every novel is character moments, punctuated with action and plot .... the second half of every novel is action and plot punctuated with character moments. I have a collection of side characters to season the stories ... some of them have plenty of interest by the readers as well. The vampire Rory was a particular fan favorite. Trust me, one of these days, I may do an anthology about individual characters in the Bite universe. But nearly everybody has a moment ... even if it is their last moment.

You may have noticed in the Saint Tommy, NYPD series that I'm taking a minimalist approach. Everyone who has a name ends up playing a role in the plot, and there are no more characters than that. The balance is inside Tommy's head, balancing horror, action and prayer life. I nearly delete every other character from the book. In part because I'm told "that's how people do it."

.... I still end up with Tommy having his own little cadre around him. But then again, he ended up with a wife, children, a partner, a medical examiner, and a second partner. Also, two IA detectives who were modeled on heckling Muppets, who I also didn't expect to get through more than one book.

Then there's Too Secret Service et al, where I was so interested in balance, I made a running gag about having them save each other's life. I forget if I removed the running gag. Hopefully, I didn't.

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