Writing Fantasy || Casting Characters

 

So you’re ready to start the first draft of your novel – great! What if it’s so epic that a huge producer (as in hugely famous) wants to make it into a movie? That’s even more fantastic! Some of you reading this may have to do that one day. How awesome would that be? Have you already been daydreaming of who you’d cast in your movie? Let’s face it; most of us envision our stories on the screen even before we put fingers to keyboard.  This is actually very helpful when considering how your characters will respond to events in your story with their mannerisms, quirks and personalities. Here’s an exercise to get your producer juices flowing.

Writing Fantasy || Casting Characters
Your Novel on Screen

If Steven Spielberg called for advice on casting for your movie, who would be your first choice?

Is your story a swashbuckling adventure with a shot of rum humour? Maybe Jonny Depp is who you have in mind for your hero. Or do you see the dashingly romantic Orlando Bloom as your protagonist?

Are you writing a sci-fi novel? Do you see Leonard Nimoy as your strange wise man, or perhaps he fits the role of a High-Elf wizard in your fantasy novel?

Who would you just love to cast as your main Protagonist?

Who would be perfect in the role of your main Antagonist?

Your Protagonist’s Love Interest?

Your Protagonist’s Mentor?

Your Protagonist’s Sidekick?

Your Protagonist’s 4 Main Followers?

Your Antagonist’s Sidekick or Main Henchman?

Other Characters

Family Members

Boss/Teacher

Religious Leader

Governor/Political Leader

Town Clown

Others…

Pinterest For Role Call

By now most of you know how much I love to play around on Pinterest and create secret boards for what I’m working on. I create boards for my character roles, costume ideas, writing tips for the genre I’m currently writing in and so on. After my book is published, I make all the secret boards public to, hopefully, gain readers from my boards. (This a little sneaky tip I learned  about social media marketing from a lecturer at WriteCanada, the annual writer’s conference I attend in Toronto).

Do You Need To Fire A Famous Actor?

As you write each scene, ask yourself if the actor you’ve chosen fits the role you’ve cast them in. If the actor isn’t working for your character – cut them loose! Don’t feel too bad. I’m sure Brad Pitt can find employment elsewhere. I find this casting exercise very helpful and inspiring. There’s freedom in ‘hiring’ professionals to play around in your imagination. And it’s so much fun!

Resources

If you missed my other blogs on writing characters, you can catch up here:

Character Personalities

Character Races

Character Occupations

Character Names

Character Backstory

Till next time, I hope you are blessed.

Lynne

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Writing Fantasy || Outlining 3 – Story Arc

Most best-sellers and box-office hits have a main character that goes through an enormous transformation and either becomes a hero or ends up becoming a villain. (Anakin as he turns to the Dark Side). The result is what keeps us talking about it long after the story has ended and we’ve slid back into our own reality. It’s this change that intrigues the audience and keeps them riveted to the story, not wanting to put the book down or leave the theatre for a refill of popcorn for fear of missing something huge.

Darth Vader
Darth Vader

Award-winning novelists seem to agree that there are four (sometimes five) key elements to character arc which drives a compelling story arc.

 

4 Key Elements For Character Arc   #WritingTips

 

  1. Need
  2. Yearning
  3. Weakness
  4. Desire

 

  • Your story will usually begin with your main protagonist and their setting. His life lacks something he needs and causes a sense of something unfulfilled.
  • The need may be fuelled by a yearning which he may or may not be aware of.
  • The yearning may come from a backstory that caused them to feel weakened by a loss of love, ability, or perhaps a sense of purpose, and makes them fearful, limited by their circumstances and feeling unable to change. The yearning is most likely to be the opposite of what the protagonist’s life is like now. Identify their yearning in a single sentence and let that drive the story arc, for example, he wants to be free (of something or someone), to find true love, to go home again (or make a home for himself).
  • Something happens to your protagonist that changes their view on their daily life and stirs a desire for change. This is the Inciting Event.

This will all happen in Act 1. After the event that happens to your hero to stir their desire, you’ll be ready to think about your story arc and which scenes belong in Act 2. This took me some time to figure out, but I think I have the most important points now. Remember we’re not writing yet, just outlining. Simple point form or one-sentence sticky notes will do.

 

Creating Intensity Toward The Anticipated Conflict   #WritingTips

 

About a quarter of the way into your novel, the hero will be frantically searching for a reason behind the villain’s antagonism. The hero may not yet realize there’s an underlying cause for the building conflict, or they may have a vague idea but not yet know what’s at stake. The villain may still be taunting the hero to make them give up and turn back.

Before the halfway point of your story, the hero will realize the true nature of the conflict which is imminent and the ultimate power of the villain. Do your notes on story arc build up to your halfway conflict? Include your notes on the hero’s personality and flaws that hold them back, how their mentor tries to persuade them to believe the truth, plot twists, and some fun scenes with their companions for comic relief (The Avengers).

Next time we’ll look at how to generate conflict and why it propels the story.

 

Resources:

Personality Types by Lynne Collier

Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

The Avengers

Writing Fantasy ll Characters 4 –Personality by Lynne Collier

Writing Fantasy ll Premise 2 – Plot Twists by Lynne Collier

 

Till next time, I hope you are blessed.

Lynne

Writing Fantasy || Characters 5 – Backstory

 

You probably have a pretty good idea of who your protagonist, their main sidekick, and the evil antagonist are and what they’re doing when your story starts; but how did they become who they are? Why is your protagonist a charming young female who loves to wander the forests of a mystical land on horseback? Why is her companion an outcast from a faraway land? What led your antagonist to despise all Elves?

What’s the story behind your story?

How do you find out the backstory of your story? As you know, I’m learning this whole process as I go along – like most of you too, it means. Thank you for joining me on this journey. In my research I discovered that the best information to start with is the character’s birth. (Duh.)

Baby Sleeping
Sleeping Baby by pixabay

I also found as I wrote my first NaNoWriMo novel draft last fall, it really does help to plot all this before you start writing your novel. I wasted many hours last November going back into a previous chapter to correct something I didn’t realize about my character until half way through. I mentioned I switched my focus half way through the story, right? The first half was superhero and the second half was – well, I’m not exactly sure but it wasn’t superhero. Something I learned from a fellow NaNo writer was to write all the main characters on sticky notes or in a journal with their own page (the method I chose), then add anything you discover about them as you write so you don’t lose track of information.

So let’s start with your protagonist.

Ask where they were born and any unusual circumstances surrounding their birth. Was it an easy birth? Was the father present? Were they delivered by a doctor or a travelling healer? Maybe in their realm they were delivered by supernatural means. How many siblings did they have? Write as much as you know about your character.

Then go on to childhood. Did they go to school? Who was their best friend? What was their favourite subject? Did they excel at anything? Did their experiences as a child influence their career choice? Were they homeschooled or sent away at a young age to apprentice with someone? Were they born with all the knowledge they would need in life? How did that happen?

If they’re an adult when the story begins, what drove them to be in the situation they’re in now? Did they suffer prejudice, health issues or a failed relationship? Write as many life events as you can think of and add to and erase when you begin to write. Many ideas will change as your story unfolds.

Then do the same for your major antagonist. Ask why they’re angry, mean, and vicious. People don’t start out that way as a newborn baby so what happened in their past to steer them down that path? Is the antagonist driven by fear, guilt or jealousy? Why do they have metal teeth or wear a mask?

Do the same for two or three minor characters and any new ones you add later. Write only what’s important to your reader.

 

#WritingFantasy   Resources:

Take a look at The Watcher by Sara Davison as a great example of backstory for her protagonist,  Kathryn Ellison, and Great Expectations as a wonderfully written backstory for the antagonist, the embittered Miss Havisham.

And check out my interview with Colin from the sc-fi novel Singularity!

 

Till next time, I hope you are blessed.

Lynne

Writing Fantasy || Characters 4 – Personality

How well do you know your characters? Do you know the personalities of these people who live in your head? Have you spent enough time with them to know how they’d feel about what’s going on in their story? Would their reactions to certain events or a flippant statement lead to a fight scene? Would they burst into tears and curl up in a corner?

Personality Types
How would your character react?

 

Know Your Characters Well

Knowing your characters well enough to be able to use their personality traits to your advantage as you write your novel will make the writing flow easier and create logical and organic story arcs.  For example; who is your protagonist likely to befriend? Who may hate your protagonist? What drives your protagonist’s passion? What may drive a particular character crazy? How would your antagonist behave in an argument? As I study the next steps in writing my novel, I realize I can’t answer some of the questions I need to ask to plot my story. The reason being, I don’t know what my character would do in any given situation. So this week I’ll take the time to get to know who these people are and what their responses would be to the events I want in my storyline.

#PersonalityTypes

There are several personality tests online but these three are the best in my opinion. Each one brings a different perspective to a developing character. Take the time to get to know everyone in your story. It’s fascinating and fruitful. Once you know your main characters well you’ll be better able to write an accurate and believable story.

 

Resources:

Myers-Briggs 16 Personality Types my Pinterest board Coaching || Personality Types

Enneagram of Personality  lists Type, Ideal, Fear, Desire and Vice for 9 categories

The Four Temperaments   Choleric, Melancholic, Sanguine and Phlegmatic

If you’d like to dig a little deeper or find your own personality type, you can check out a blog post I wrote for my mini-course, Your Write Voice For His Kingdom.

Once we know our characters’ personalities we can go on to discovering their backstories and why they responded to events in their past based on those personality traits.

Till next time, I hope you are blessed.

Lynne

 

Writing Fantasy || Characters 3 – Occupations

 

Your characters will need something to do on a daily basis while they wait for the epic events of their story to unfold. Start with your main protagonist. What do they do as an occupation? Do they work as a clerk in a shop, go to school, apprentice, or are they independently wealthy? Depending on your story genre, the answer to their occupation may be a different answer entirely. Maybe your protagonist is a dragon trainer!

Writing Fantasy || Occupations - Dragon Trainer
Writing Fantasy || Occupations – Dragon Trainer

What Do Your Characters Do For A Living?

Your storyline will determine your characters’ occupations according to what you need to happen. In order for your story to flow well, your characters may need to be in a particular place at a certain time for a spectacular fight scene, for example. Who will be involved in the scene? If you have a wonderful protagonist who’s going to be fighting, how do they fight and why? Are they saving a fair-haired maiden from the clutches of an evil villain or are they catching her as she falls from a cliff? One scenario would lend better to your protagonist being a knight; in another story, your protagonist may be a wizard who projects a beam to catch her mid-air. On the other hand, if you’re a romantic at heart, the protagonist may be a handsome prince who just happened to be riding by and catches her in his arms as she falls (swoon).

According to the occupation you choose for your characters, they will need the ability to carry out their work. Be sure to write in their abilities somewhere to keep your characters believable. For instance, your young scholar may not have the physical strength to wield a five-foot sword, or the understanding of human anatomy to know where to land a fatal blow.  Remember to show their skills at work, not just tell your readers about them.

10 Occupations and Accompanying Abilities

WIZARD – Magic, Focus, Research

PIRATE – Sailing, Leading, Navigating, Thieving

KNIGHT – Swordsmanship, Strategizing, Loyalty

GLADIATOR – Physical Strength, Combat Skills, Fearlessness

BLACKSMITH – Forging, Metallurgy, Craftsmanship

RANGER – Travelling, Stealth, Archery

CLERIC – Teaching, Learning, Wordcraft

BARD – Musician, Singing, Entertaining

VAMPIRE HUNTER – Night-Shift Worker, Precision, Analysis

SHEPHERD – Animal Farming, Patience, Protecting

 

In her book, ‘Worlds Unseen’, Rachel Starr Thomson writes a compelling story about an orphaned girl, a dying council member and a gypsy. Her characters come together from different occupations to battle the unseen forces of evil. “A wonderfully realistic fantasy world” – Jill Williamson, author.

What occupations fit well with the story you’re writing? What will your main protagonist do? Do they enjoy their work? What unexpected twists will drive them to do something extraordinary? Do they long for an awesome adventure? You’re exactly the right person to give them one!

Till next time, I hope you are blessed.

Lynne

Writing Fantasy || Characters 2 – Names

Giving my main characters names helped me to organize their files on my ‘secret’ Pinterest boards and also I didn’t feel as rude when I talked to them. (Admit it, you do this too). I have a secret board for each of my main characters, which I’ll make public when I’m ready to publish my novel. You may choose to do things differently, but if you’re a beginner at this fantasy novel-writing thing like I am, bear with me and decide the best process for you as you gain experience.

Roy from 'The Kingdom' by Benjamin T. Collier
Fantasy Writing. Naming your characters.

Choosing Names For Your Fantasy Characters   #WritingFantasy   #FantasyNames

One site to go to for naming inspiration is Name Generator but I’ve found watching the credits from shows and movies to be especially inspiring, especially if the show was filmed in a place similar to my story world; such as Vikings, an historical drama filmed in the rugged terrain of Ireland and northern Canadian wilderness, and Shannara Chronicles, a post-apocalyptic fantasy based in the 6th millennium and filmed in New Zealand. The actors and production crew quite often have interesting native names.

Reading and researching old books from the countries or regions which have influenced your setting can be a big help too. Consider the character of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. Heath means ‘an area of land covered in heather or similar low dense shrubbery’, and Cliff is ‘a high steep rock or precipice’. Heathcliff is a perfect name for the dishevelled and tortured romantic hero living on the English moors.

Another way to create unique fantasy names is to pair the first name with an Occupation for your characters.

 

Here Are A Few #FantasyNames To Get You Started:

First Name (Occupation) Surname

Penelope (Courier) Donkeyrider

Dugan (Thief) Bagsnatcher

Ventrice (Cobbler) Shoemaker

Tola (Blacksmith) Axegrinder

Roland (Brewmaster) Winemaker

 

People can also be named for the place they live:

First Name and Surname

Jon Greenwood

Alex Steephill

Lara Cragbottom

Beulah Wortbog

 

Yet other characters have more obscure names such as Mark Twain, the renowned author and humourist. He was born Samuel Clemens but used the pen-name Mark Twain, which means the second line on the side of the riverboat, which Twain worked on as a young man. The second line (mark) was 12’ and the safe depth mark for the boat.

So have fun with naming your characters. A brainstorming session with friends could generate a lot of names for you – and a lot of beverages snorting out of the nose (always a good party trick). What else could influence your characters’ names?

 

What name would you give the character in the title picture?

Leave a comment. I’d love to know what name you came up with.

Till next time, I hope you are blessed,

Lynne

Writing Fantasy || Characters 1 – Races

You’ve already chosen a setting for your story and built a world. Now you can add your characters to it! This is my favourite part so far. Your characters will depend largely on what type of world you have and what events you’re thinking of writing. Let us say you have a fantasy world similar to Earth but with beings familiar to most readers of that genre. You would possibly include Elves, Dwarves, Humans, Halflings and one or two unique evil species of your own.

 

Faun Knight Soul Calibur creation by Benjamin T. Collier
Faun Knight by Benjamin T. Collier in Soul Calibur custom creator.

 

If you haven’t done so yet, now would be a good time to create a Pinterest board for your main characters. You can move them to individual boards when you have names for them. We’ll be looking at fantasy names next time. For now, you can simply compile a separate board for each race. Pinterest Fantasy || Characters board.

Fantasy Races   #FantasyRaces

We create the visual story as we read so your readers will envision the story better if they’ve already seen what these species look like. If you introduce new species remember to include a detailed description of the basic appearance of your character. Fantasy readers have good imaginations, but give them a little help; height, hair, skin, eyes, mouth, ears, gait, clothing and such. You could run your description by a friend and ask them to draw what you described. Does it look like you envision your character to look like? What descriptives may you need to add?

How will your races survive in the climate you created for your world? Do they need to live underground because their skin burns easily and their world has two suns? Will they live in trees because the world has flooded from a melting ice age? Have they evolved from the original species because of some catastrophe and now look completely different? Perhaps a Dwarf race is now hairless due to the loss of a specific ingredient that has been lost from their diet. Changing a few basic features will make your characters unique but you’ll need to know why they look different from LOTR races which readers will naturally gravitate towards envisioning. We’ll talk more about backstories later. For now focus on who they are and their general appearance.

Copyright

Remember that you need to be careful of copyright when including a race which someone else has created. It’s safer to begin writing fantasy with races which are common knowledge such as the ones I’ve mentioned, or connect with a fantasy coach. Any race from folklore is a pretty safe bet too. If you decide to create a new race, chances are your creations will end up on the internet somewhere and others will use them. Are you ok with that? If not, you’ll need to copyright them.

Be sure to add a watermark to any original pictures and always link them to your website. Readers like to know the author behind the story.

Till next time, I hope you are blessed.

Lynne