Saturday, September 15, 2007

My problem writing serial characters

I rarely use a character in more than one short story. A big part of this is because most of my ideas for short stories come from plot, not characters. I think of the plots first, then I come up with the main character and other characters.

For novels, I'm usually just the opposite. I'll have a group of characters, then I think of how to make them interact, and the plot blooms from there.

So, since my short stories tend to be plot driven, at least initially, I rarely have serial characters, characters that appear in more than one short story or even in a series of short stories.

I have characters I would like to make serial characters. Belgad the Liar comes to mind first. Then, of course, there's Kron Darkbow. Others would include Lerebus Shieldbreaker, Lord Verkain, even John Dee.

But after the initial short story, I seem to have difficulties finding a followup story for my characters. After using the character once, my focus turns to that character and not the plot. And since my short story ideas come from my plots ... you can see the difficulty.

Again, with novels the situation is just the opposite. I easily have a half dozen ideas for Kron Darkbow novels, as well as ideas for a Belgad trilogy.

What has made me think of this lately is my character John Dee (who is also known by numerous other names) from my short story "Beneath a Persian Sun." I've written this story specifically for a certain Swords anthology, but I'm holding on to it until their reading period at the beginning of next year. Meanwhile, I like the character and the idea behind him so much I want to use him in other stories. I've got my character, and I've even got some places/scenery, but every idea I come up with seems to be more lame than the one before.

Anybody have any advice? I'm drawing blanks.


Howard von Darkmoor said...

Well, not sure if it will help with Dee, but here's an idea:

before writing any more short stories, create an Excel list of plots. One line plot summaries. Similar to a list of character/place/title names, get a list going. Once you've several on there, then pick one, create the character(s) necessary for it, and, if you like them, grab another plot of the list for them to tackle next.


(and I've done this) think of a story arc for the character whom you've fallen in love with. Or of an ending story that brings his/her saga to a close. Then write the stories between where you started and that point. Maybe it turns into a novel, maybe it turns into 20 short stories with a scattering of 5 or 6 spread throughout the whole timetable actually published.

A couple ideas, hope they're worth something.

Howard von Darkmoor said...


You've time to play games on me blog, but not comment on ye own?

Of course there can only be one Tigger! Life as an immortal would probably be more fun as him anyway.

Ty said...

Well, I'm busy trying to use Tigger as a serial character. I think he could take Conan.

Ty said...

Oh, and as for the story arc idea, I do have a basic one worked out for John Dee ... but because of his rather unique circumstances/existence (which I won't go into here, it'll come up in a short story eventually, he doesn't have the usual arc most characters might have. The basics of his background came up in "Beneath a Persian Sun," but there's a little more to it than that.

On a side note, I have come up with a few rules for Dee stories. Certain things that have to be in each story, or things about him.

Howard von Darkmoor said...

On a side note, I have come up with a few rules for Dee stories. Certain things that have to be in each story, or things about him.

Great point! I can definitely understand that. Good luck, and I won't mind running into Dee again someday.