Saturday, August 17, 2013

Character files are fun

One of my favorite things about creating a story or a universe is the wide variety of characters that populate said world. There are few things more liberating to me than creating and defining a character. It's one reason why I LOVE video games that are heavy on customization. It's also why I really get into stories in any medium that focus on character. One recent example of character taking centerstage is the Jack Reacher movie. In the books, Reacher is described as being 6'5 and between 225-250 pounds. He was portrayed by Tom Cruise - much to the chagrin of fans. But Cruise OWNED the character and reaffirmed my belief that although he might be a little nuts, Cruise can easily make me believe he is the character he plays.

I don't necessarily think character should overshadow plot, though I do believe that they should work in tandem. Obviously, a story's main character tends to be the most developed and supporting characters often end up serving the plot.

In Patriot-1, I created a number of characters, some that serve the plot and some that are in direct support of the main character. On that same token, I cut a number of characters as well, as the final version of the book will differ greatly from the original version. In fact, a major player in the story wasn't added until the final draft was being written.

Regardless, the plot and main character of Patriot-1 take center stage throughout the book, but there are a lot of characters that are kind of awesome and to really add weight to the story - the supporting cast needs back story.

I'm a fan of character files - like the old G.I. Joe file cards for example - because they give you the history behind a character. What can't be explained in the story itself, can be outlined in a couple of paragraphs.

For me it's fun to do say: "Okay, this character will is 'this and this' and then start doing research and expand from there.

So I've done that with Patriot-1, and I do have backstories mapped out for my characters, and I'm slowly starting to put them on the book's website.

Since the book has a military and espionage theme and the CIA is heavily involved, I gave the character files the "spy treatment."

The first character is David St. Croix. In the story he works for the CIA's Special Activities Division. Since the first draft of Patriot-1 he's been a French national - what became the CIA team was originally a mercenary outfit - and as the story evolved so did he. He was originally portrayed as a bit nuts, but he's since become the quiet professional of the ensemble.

The most fun was coming up with a backstory for him. because that's when research and character creation REALLY gets fun. 

You can check out the full version of the Character File at the book's website

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