Memorable Characters Part I
I actually, finally, have the main plot of the Epic Novel hashed out. I have a complete draft. I have a beginning that works and an ending that completes the characters’ arcs. So what now? It’s time to get into the detailed revision.
I’ve been doing big-picture revisions for so long, I hardly know how to do nitpicky revisions. I decided to start with the characters. One of my most consistent compliments is that I really know my characters. However, when a critique group read the old beginning (100,000 words ago), my most consistent complaint was that there were too many characters. It was confusing, and the readers couldn’t keep everyone straight.
So I have CUT left and right. All those poor characters. I had to cut a couple love interests for the characters who remain, too. Oh well. XP Once I got the cast down to a more manageable level, I needed to make things less confusing and to make the characters more memorable.
Brandon Sanderson does one of the best jobs with a wide cast of characters. I recently read the last two books in his Reckoners series. I had read the first book several years ago. However, when I picked up the second book, I could immediately picture the characters and their jobs because Sanderson had given them distinctions, unique aspects that made them stand out. I remembered the big weapons specialist with a slight French accent. I remembered the smaller southerner who bragged all the time (and didn’t know how to use the word “ya’ll” correctly XD) and wore an army cap. (At least, that’s how I pictured him. Maybe he didn’t wear an army cap.) I tried to think about what made Sanderson’s characters memorable in revising my own characters.
First task: standardize the names. I have two POV characters who, while similar in many respects, are very different and have very different ways of viewing the world around them. One of them is friends with everybody. The other holds himself aloof. In the confusing draft, the friendly one’s narrative used first names for everyone while the aloof one’s narrative used last names for everyone. This led my poor, confused readers to believe there were twice as many characters as there were.
So no more. The narrative now uses one name consistently for each character, regardless of POV, though nicknames and such are still used in dialogue.
I also, apparently, love names that start with the letter ‘D’. I am going to have to change some of them. This hurts, as all the ‘D’ characters have had those names from the beginning. But it must be done!