Friday, August 8, 2014

Named Characters

I made a list of my named characters and did a head count: twenty-seven.

I didn’t start out with twenty-seven. I began with the main ones, ten or so, and just kept adding people as I needed them.

Since twenty-seven amounts to a fair number of folks to keep track of, early on, I went to great lengths to make up a chart, complete with pictures, to keep them all straight. It’s been very helpful.

My list includes two historical figures, long deceased. One comes back to an elderly woman in dreamlike flashbacks—he sets the stage for the fictional mystery. Another is only talked about in passing, but you could say—he is the key to the mystery.

My list includes two dogs with very different personalities: one’s an opportunistic beggar, while the other one’s protective and therapeutic.

Obviously, the protagonist tops the list, along with the main ally and a few important, but lesser, allies.

The villains are equally important. So much so, that I became reluctant to get rid of any of them. Why waste a nasty character? A good villain ought to come back and do more villainy at some point.

That leaves the many minor characters. The funny thing I discovered about them—they can grow on you.

I had several minor characters who started with small walk-on parts who came back to do more important things. They surprised me on more than one occasion by being useful and wise.

What I don’t include on this list of named characters are the towns in Henry County I used for settings. I went out of my way to use as many as I could, because, as a former long-time resident, they’re all important to me.

First of all, Bishop Hill. I wouldn’t have a story without it. I thought about changing the name, but I’m glad I didn’t. I just fictionalized it to suit my narrative needs. Make believe is fun, but the real thing can be discovered any time someone wants to be a tourist.

Second, Galva. I shopped there, my kids went to school there, and many friends live there still. I only wish I could have used it more. Maybe next time.

Cambridge, Alpha, Altona, and the interconnected back roads all play important parts.

And there are more—my list keeps on growing. 

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