Sunday, October 27, 2013

Population Growth

Where do these people come from?  I start off with a simple story about one (1) named character and set my protagonist off to perform a role, which brings the protag into contact with another, who must naturally be given a name as well - if only so they can have a conversation.  But there are consequences to having a secondary character as either protagonist or antagonist.  These newly introduced characters evoke their own back stories, which give rise to even more characters, more names, more interactions and then they, cascading is a chain reaction, explode into universes and societies, fabled reputations, lies and unpleasant truths, conflicts and peaceable reconciliations.

The simple tale has unleashed a tsunami of consequences.

Yet one must deal with this emerging fictional population. The most economical way some writers deal with it is by assigning names in relation to that player's impact on the tale.  Protagonists always have full names and carry fully detailed descriptions, secondary characters may get first or last names, and sometimes switch between these modes while getting short shrift on the descriptive element.  Characters of minor importance are graced with a single name, nickname, or only an insignificant descriptive passage e.g. "...a gray clad figure, casually glanced."  These nominal clues inform the reader in subtle ways, such as realizing that a fully named character in chapter one must be important even though that person may not appear until much later in the book.

These secondary, tertiary, and other characters often proliferate, scurrying across the pages, exposing themselves briefly before disappearing. Who knows their origins?  Did they emerge spontaneously from the Planck layer of a writer's subconsciousness or are they simply ornaments that decorate the plot? Regardless, they flit around the pages like silverfish in an old pulp mag, bothering the hell out of the curious reader and leaving only the chewed and ragged edges of their impressions behind.

And sometimes, to the dismay of the author, they rebel, grow, and make the story their own.


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