From the Lecture: Character Evolution

So among other things, I’m hoping to base a blog entry on a piece of the presentation I gave to local school kids when promoting my book this past school year. I’m going to attempt for every Friday – but NO promises! 🙂

You’re reading a book – and yes, this one’s a page turner.  The characters are battling it out, using every bit of wits they have.  Will they die?  Which will die?  Which ones will die?  But if she dies than she’ll never get the chance to tell him the secret – that dark secret that you’ve been dying to know.  And now more questions pop into your head.  And more.  And then more.

But isn’t that the point?

When you read a book for the first time, you usually don’t know what’s going to happen (unless someone in a car drives by yelling “SNAPE KILLS DUMBLEDORE!“).  Questions and worries begin to crawl into your mind and that – hopefully – builds suspense.  That’s what makes you continue reading the story, though, isn’t it?  You don’t know what’s going to happen.

But let’s look at it from the author’s perspective.  They know, don’t they?  They usually do.  They more than likely have an outline of their book or future books on their desk in front of them when they write.  If they don’t, then they more than likely have it played out in their head.  What does that mean?  That means that the question, suspense and lust to know more isn’t present for the author.  Those elements that kept you turning the pages don’t exist for the author when they write their story.

Or maybe not….

Evolution of Dr. Catazoid
Evolution of Dr. Catazoid

As I’ve written my two books, I’ve found that there are twists and turns in store for me as well.  Sometimes a certain piece of the plot goes an entirely different direction.  What I want to focus on, though, are the characters.  Even characters of a story can turn out completely different, whether it be their personality, appearance or actions.  One of the characters I briefly highlight in my Space Dog presentation is Space Dog’s archenemy, Dr. Catazoid.  In Catazoid’s case, his change came in appearance.  Take a look to the right and you’ll see what I mean.  The top image is Catazoid, before I began writing Space Dog and the Solar Stone Code.  There was a two year period of planning before I began, and in those two years, that is what Catazoid looked like.  It took me a while before I realized: that looks lame!  I want my villain to be scary, menacing, slick and cunning.  What was the result?  Take a look at the image on the bottom.  COMPLETELY different.

The physical evolution of Catazoid actually had further effects.  What happened was he became less of a robot and more of a cat – and dare I say it? – human.  This turns out to be very important in the story.  A lot of Catazoid’s past explains why he is the way he is, and this physical change helps to solidify his character for me, and hopefully the reader.

In a different case, there was a particular character who I had planned to kill off in Book 3.  I didn’t though.  They died much earlier on (I’m not saying whether it was in Book 1 or 2).  Again, it wasn’t something I had planned; but as I progressed further into the story, I felt that it had to be done for the sake of the plot.  It also allowed me to introduce a new and rather pivotal character into the story at an earlier stage, much to my liking. 🙂  Rearranging deaths isn’t foreign to authors.  My favorite, Jo Rowling, actually had planned to kill Arthur Weasley in OotP, but when the time came, she couldn’t do it.  So, what did she do to compensate?  She killed of Remus Lupin and Tonks.

Lastly, I’ve found some characters to be what I like to think of as “Breakthrough Characters.”  There may be an actual term for characters like these, but I am not aware of one.  In Book 1, there’s a brief moment where I introduce a character named Officer Erizeld.  When I first wrote him, it had been for laughs and I had no plans for him to reappear.  As time went by, I actually began to take notice to this character.  I didn’t even realize it, but this comedic character with two lines of fame became part of the ‘supporting cast.’  A couple years later, I can’t imagine the story without him.  What’s more, he makes quite a few more appearances in the later books and it turns out he has a pretty neat role to play.  He’s not the only one, though.  There are three other characters who went under the same process.  It took me sometime to realize that I had a real place in the story for them as well.

So who says there aren’t twists and turns in the story for the author?  I’m sure that something I haven’t planned will pop out in the final Space Dog.  Remember, anything can change in the story.  It doesn’t have to be just characters (although I find them much more interesting 😉 ).

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