Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Avoiding Tunnel Vision

When I was in the planning stages of "A Mage's Power" there were a number of goals I wanted to accomplish. One was of them was avoiding Tunnel Vision. By this I mean the perception that nothing happens outside of what the main characters experience. This is part of creating the "Full Picture". There are more people living on Tariatla than my protagonist and his immediate friends, and there are more locations then he personally sets foot on

I didn't want characters to disappear into a void when they walk off-screen. Radiata Stories, a video game by Square Enix, is the reason why. If you look around my blog or pay attention when reading A Mage's Power, you'll see this game's influence because it is a great game. There are no 'generic NPCs'. Every single character has their own sprite and their own schedule. After years of games where the NPCs all looked the same and stood around like statues this here was a living and vibrant world. I wanted to replicate that in my story. I created personalities and histories for characters that I knew would have small roles so they would be stronger characters despite their little screen time. When they weren't talking or working with Eric I wanted a reader to believe they could be doing something instead of vanishing into oblivion.

Part of this involves a shifting of main characters.  In A Mage's Power, only Eric is in every scene. In the second chapter, he gains school friends and spends a lot of time with them when he is in school. Once he joins the Dragon's Lair he is busy with guild missions and training and so he has less time for them and so they appear less often. This is intentional. They are important to Eric but they are their own characters and do not derive their substance from their relationship with him. On TV tropes we call those kinds of characters a Satellite Character because they have no purpose other than orbiting another character, usually the protagonist.

In the fifth chapter, Eric is assigned two teammates and a mentor to make a four person team. His time spent with them comprises the bulk of the book. However, they are not in every scene either. After missions and training Eric's teammates would wander off to other friends and other activities because their lives do not revolve around Eric. This is why he does not think to invite them on a volunteer mission; he can't think of a reason why they would join him. Instead he seeks out someone who is motivated to complete the mission.  

The downside to this is that I have a lot of characters and a shifting main cast. Some people find that confusing and I totally understand. If I didn't have character sheets for all of them, then I wouldn't be able to keep them all straight all the time either. However, I think this is more realistic than having a small cast of character do everything, and creating this scene of a concrete-real-world is another goal I wanted to accomplish with this book. To read more about that, click here for "Primary Abstract vs Secondary Concrete".

For similar posts about the setting instead of characters,  see "A World of Monsters" and "To Build a World Think about Ants"

Brian Wilkerson is a freelance book reviewer, writing advice blogger and independent novelist. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post Brian.
    I have just been culling extraneous characters. Hehe.
    So this is very timely. Thanks for sharing.