Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Making Connections

I was reading something the other day. It was an article on the best point to start watching certain shows, because sometimes they take a few episodes, or seasons, to really get going. Anyway, it said something about a group of characters working best when "everyone kind of has a piece of everyone else." I actually had to stop reading and write myself a note on my upcoming ensemble cast project:

It's not the differences. It's the similarities. Give them something to relate to in each other.

I think too often I try to make the cast too varied. If you have, say, six characters, you want them to be different from each other. Obviously. Because if two characters are filling the same role in the story, one of them is redundant and needs to die. But what happens, to me, anyway, is that each character becomes radically different from the rest.

So one character ends up being an upper crust Bostonian, and another is a poor hippy from San Francisco. They would have been from Portland, but that's too close in latitude to Boston. And then we throw in a Cajun from Baton Rouge (which my brain pronounces in a wacky pseudo-French accent every time) for good measure. Very different characters, from very different backgrounds. They're very different, you know.

While, sure, this makes them diverse, it also means they don't have a lot in common. So they need to be different, but also a little the same. We're all human, after all. They can't just be a bunch of people, in a place. They have to be a bunch of people, in a place, who are somehow connected.

Look, I have pictures! Terminology courtesy of the Five Man Band and Cast Calculus.

 Hello, strangers…

Oh, you're also from rural Michigan? Hey, I too enjoy fudge and murder!

I have often said, I don’t relate to other people very well. So all of this might seem obvious to you, but for me it's a god damn revelation. It's like I suddenly made the connection and understood that this is how people work. Not even just characters. People in general.

Although, at this point in the project, I only have one character even figured out. I wonder if I can use that as a jumping off point. Like, if I start with him, maybe I can figure how he'll be connected to someone else, and then on from there. Who does he get along with or not? And then work out the motivations behind that. This could work. Or it could all fall apart around me. Either is an acceptable outcome.

I have some characters to ponder. I'll see you Friday.

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