Placement of plot & main character(s) vs cast

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  1. #1
    Future Frontier Brain
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    Default Placement of plot & main character(s) vs cast

    Not sure quite how to describe this. Well, I have a core of 6 characters that I wanna put into a story. But I'm not entirely set on what exactly is the plot of the story. The first # of chapters are gonna be mostly the members of the cast/main characters (something I'll get on later) just starting out on things that they wanna do (train, learn, etc.) w/ Pokemon & can be seen as introduction combined w/ establishing moments of character & backstory as well as obtaining/growing their first few Pokemon. The characters don't all know each other yet. They are friends w/ each other in this long chain/web (person 1 is friends w/ person 2,3, & 4, while isn't close to person 5 or 6 but knows who they are/person 4 is knows but isn't close to person 1, friends w/ person 2 & 5 while just meeting person 3 & 6 for the first time/etc.). There will be interactions with them, but not as much as there will be later on. This is also where there will be small rumblings of the villain team that reach each of the characters in some shape or form.

    The next round of chapters is the cast/characters trying to prevent the villain team from succeeding in their goals while also bonding w/ their first few Pokemon more. A bit more backstory is given to the cast & comes up much more than in previous chapters. The groups' first bonding moment also happens here & leads into more interactions later in the story.

    After the villain team has been taken out for good, what is left is exploring the groups' lives more & how each of them interact w/ each other on a more personal level. It's noteworthy because there isn't really anything like an important goal for all of them to head toward. They face things like everyday issues & growing up & make a few more additions to their Pokemon team. But I don't really have anything here that will grab readers other than teen drama, which will take place all throughout the story. Once the cast/characters have all reached their peaks of development, there is supposed to be this big moment that all of them are a part of, but I have no idea what it's supposed to be. I need something that can gather all of them together & make sure they're all there for a legitimate reason.

    This is also where I have the question of cast vs main characters. I wanna spread the attention as evenly as I can for the 6 of them, but who I open the story w/ & who I close the story w/ is an issue. Wouldn't that give that person some significance over the others? And it's not easy to have all of these characters have moments that can be seen as all on the same level. I know people have many different levels of issues & some people handle certain problems easier than others, but I don't wanna make some characters seem more important than others.

    I know I have alot here but I hope someone is able to understand the issues I'm having because I really wanna make this project. Thanks in advanced!

  2. #2
    Clarion of Revelations Feliciano's Avatar Social Media Editor
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    Default Re: Placement of plot & main character(s) vs cast

    Okay, this is gonna be a little long and probably more than a little academic, but bear with me here. I promise I'm going somewhere with this in regards to your questions.

    First off, you absolutely must figure out a plot for your story. A very important distinction you need to keep in mind is that a plot is not what your story is about; a plot is what happens in your story. The plot of any story should be able to be distilled down to one sentence, no matter how vast your cast list (more on that later) or universe or anything is, because all of that is built around the plot. I'll give you an example my professor gave me, and guess what movie I'm describing with this sentence. "A young man must hone his skills as a fighter in order to save a woman and defeat a great evil."

    Give up? It's Harry Potter. And Star Wars. And a whole slew of other movies, books, tv shows, and other stories. Everything Luke does in Star Wars serves the purpose of developing his fighting skills. The need to save the woman, Princess Leia, is what causes Luke to need to develop his fighting skills. The antagonist, Darth Vader, is what's standing in his way and trying to stop him from saving the princess. That's it. That's the entire plot of Star Wars, and that's what each part of the plot needs to do. Your world, characters, everything is built around the plot. Don't build the plot around a world, or a bunch of characters. Things just get sloppy and disorganized that way, which leads me to my next point.

    You can have a large main cast, fine. But you need to pick one protagonist. Just one. No exceptions, excuses, or shortcuts on this one. If you're going to write a single story, you must pick one protagonist, one person whom the story is about. Even if all six people have the same goal and need to do the same things to achieve it, you're left with the fact that the story becomes incredibly cluttered, repetitive, and ultimately, too boring for a reader to bother reading. This is why you only really see large groups of protagonists in tv shows, or serialized books. Each character can have an episode or book about them, and they are the protagonist in the plot of that particular episode or book. I'm not saying you can't write a story with a large cast of main characters, but one character must be the one who has a certain goal to achieve.

    A great example of this is Lord of the Rings. The protagonist is Frodo, and he is the one with the quest: go to Mt. Mordor and destroy the Ring of Power. He has a large number of people go with him on this quest initially, but we are always extremely aware that this is Frodo's quest, even if he doesn't at first seem the most qualified, and everyone else is just helping him with it. Even when Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli split off from the main fellowship (later to be rejoined by Gandalf), everything they do serves to fulfill Frodo's goal of getting to Mordor and destroying the ring. True, they each have their own goals, backstories, and personalities, but in the end, this is Frodo's story.

    Keeping these things in mind for your story, I'm fairly certain that if you put all the material you're planning to in here, simple slice of life drama isn't going to be enough to keep readers interested. You're going to need an overarching goal for whichever character you pick as your protagonist to work for, and something he needs to do in order achieve that goal. You've got a decent outline for the story, so I think that if you choose a plot, you'll have a good start. Remember, if you get stuck, try distilling your plot down to one sentence, and figure out what needs to be done in order for the protagonist to achieve his goal.

    Hope this helped.
    Last edited by Feliciano; 14th April 2012 at 08:37 PM.
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    Future Frontier Brain
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    Default Re: Placement of plot & main character(s) vs cast

    Kewl! Thanks for that. I did say to myself one time to make a story that seems realistic to readers, but people have told me conflicting things on this. Some say it's good to hit close to home, some say it defeats the point of writing. What's your take on this?

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    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Placement of plot & main character(s) vs cast

    Quote Originally Posted by Feliciano View Post
    A great example of this is Lord of the Rings. The protagonist is Frollo, and he is the one with the quest: go to Mt. Mordor and destroy the Ring of Power. He has a large number of people go with him on this quest initially, but we are always extremely aware that this is Frollo's quest, even if he doesn't at first seem the most qualified, and everyone else is just helping him with it. Even when Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli split off from the main fellowship (later to be rejoined by Gandalf), everything they do serves to fulfill Frollo's goal of getting to Mordor and destroying the ring. True, they each have their own goals, backstories, and personalities, but in the end, this is Frollo's story.
    I thought his name was Frodo? xP

    Anyway, Feliciano makes very good points. No matter how large your cast is, it's always best to pick one main character. Fire Emblem is a good example of this as well. Each game typically has a single lord character (the main character) alongside a large supporting cast of characters. They all have their own goals, but while achieving them, they help the main character move towards his/her goal as well.

    In the case of more than one main protagonist, Fire Emblem 7 has three, Lyn, Eliwood, and Hector, but their stories are separate. Lyn's story is first, then Eliwood's story begins, though Lyn and Hector help him. Hector's story is unlocked by completing Eliwood's story.

    The characters of my FE fic follow the same basic formula, though there is only one lord character, Azura. Her goal is to find her destiny and stop the Melorans from taking over the continent of Altarais. There are still two primary male protagonists, Bryan and Leyon, but they each have their own goals as well that they mean to achieve while helping Azura achieve hers. Bryan wants to find his origins and find out who his unknown mother is. Leyon wants to find out what happened to his missing brother and if he's really dead or not. The rest of the supporting cast has goals too. Skye, Bryan's best friend, wants to improve his relationship with his brother. Lily and Raela wish to avenge the deaths of their parents at the hands of bandits. Marc wants to find a way to get over his slight short-term memory loss. Zarek wants to help his ill grandfather get better. Morris, a soldier serving under Bryan, wants to avenge the destruction of a monument his family built. Eliot wants to finish one of his paintings by the end of the war. Leona wants to support Marc to the very end. Natalie wants to find the man she's truly meant to be with. And so on.

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    Default Re: Placement of plot & main character(s) vs cast

    Ah! I get it! Thanks. But there is something else I'm worried about: avoiding Satellite Characters. If all the other people on the main cast do their best to help the main character achieve their goal above their own for a bit, doesn't it seem a bit overshadowing of the main character? These other people have to stop what they're doing just to help this one person. And yeah, it's common for friends to do, but I just don't wanna make my main character seem anything like The Messiah. It's not like he's the only one that can ever solve a problem in the story & I wanna make sure to avoid making the main character seem like they're on such a higher level than everyone else. Especially if they have to help him w/ his goal.

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    Default Re: Placement of plot & main character(s) vs cast

    Well, simply put, in cases like that, the main character can't achieve their goal alone. They have to have help.

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    Clarion of Revelations Feliciano's Avatar Social Media Editor
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    Default Re: Placement of plot & main character(s) vs cast

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelleo View Post
    I thought his name was Frodo? xP
    ...It was 2 in the morning.
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    Default Re: Placement of plot & main character(s) vs cast

    Quote Originally Posted by Feliciano View Post
    ...It was 2 in the morning.
    Oh, I see. I didn't mean to offend you or anything.

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    Clarion of Revelations Feliciano's Avatar Social Media Editor
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    Default Re: Placement of plot & main character(s) vs cast

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelleo View Post
    Oh, I see. I didn't mean to offend you or anything.
    You didn't. I'm just blaming the fact that it was two in the morning for my brain fart.

    Quote Originally Posted by AuraSoul93 View Post
    Ah! I get it! Thanks. But there is something else I'm worried about: avoiding Satellite Characters. If all the other people on the main cast do their best to help the main character achieve their goal above their own for a bit, doesn't it seem a bit overshadowing of the main character? These other people have to stop what they're doing just to help this one person. And yeah, it's common for friends to do, but I just don't wanna make my main character seem anything like The Messiah. It's not like he's the only one that can ever solve a problem in the story & I wanna make sure to avoid making the main character seem like they're on such a higher level than everyone else. Especially if they have to help him w/ his goal.
    Why would you think that your protagonist has to be a Messiah? Just because they're the person that the events in the story happen to and achieves the goal that the plot set out for him doesn't mean everyone else has to bow down and worship them, if that's what you're worried about. Everything in the story must serve the purpose of either helping or hindering the protagonist in their goal - that doesn't mean it has to be obvious, or that other characters can't have skills or talents beyond those of the protagonist. Of course they're not going to be the only one who has any sort of problem solving ability, or who has to do every single little thing. That's why the ultimate goal (say, developing their skills as a trainer) is so broad - developing those skills can be done in a lot of different ways, which means that if you have a larger group of characters, they can all help in different ways (and they don't have to be obvious in those ways, either).

    However, I seriously recommend cutting down your cast of main characters. Six is way too many to handle for a non-episodic story, and you will end up with satellite characters. I suggest, at most, you cut it down to four, though two or three would be better.
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    Default Re: Placement of plot & main character(s) vs cast

    Quote Originally Posted by Feliciano View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Kelleo View Post
    Oh, I see. I didn't mean to offend you or anything.
    You didn't. I'm just blaming the fact that it was two in the morning for my brain fart.

    Quote Originally Posted by AuraSoul93 View Post
    Ah! I get it! Thanks. But there is something else I'm worried about: avoiding Satellite Characters. If all the other people on the main cast do their best to help the main character achieve their goal above their own for a bit, doesn't it seem a bit overshadowing of the main character? These other people have to stop what they're doing just to help this one person. And yeah, it's common for friends to do, but I just don't wanna make my main character seem anything like The Messiah. It's not like he's the only one that can ever solve a problem in the story & I wanna make sure to avoid making the main character seem like they're on such a higher level than everyone else. Especially if they have to help him w/ his goal.
    Why would you think that your protagonist has to be a Messiah? Just because they're the person that the events in the story happen to and achieves the goal that the plot set out for him doesn't mean everyone else has to bow down and worship them, if that's what you're worried about. Everything in the story must serve the purpose of either helping or hindering the protagonist in their goal - that doesn't mean it has to be obvious, or that other characters can't have skills or talents beyond those of the protagonist. Of course they're not going to be the only one who has any sort of problem solving ability, or who has to do every single little thing. That's why the ultimate goal (say, developing their skills as a trainer) is so broad - developing those skills can be done in a lot of different ways, which means that if you have a larger group of characters, they can all help in different ways (and they don't have to be obvious in those ways, either).

    However, I seriously recommend cutting down your cast of main characters. Six is way too many to handle for a non-episodic story, and you will end up with satellite characters. I suggest, at most, you cut it down to four, though two or three would be better.
    That's true. I was wondering about my cast & just what their individual purpose was in the story. I just tend to like shows that have diversity in their casts, lets people choose their favorites easier. But what just came to mind is distinguishing the difference between a Minor Character & a Satellite Character. I've got somewhat of a grasp on the difference but I think it's really easy for Minor Characters to unknowingly slip into Satellite Character territory. What would you consider to be the dividing line?

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    Default Re: Placement of plot & main character(s) vs cast

    Quote Originally Posted by Feliciano View Post
    You didn't. I'm just blaming the fact that it was two in the morning for my brain fart.
    Ah, mkay. That's good to know.

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    Clarion of Revelations Feliciano's Avatar Social Media Editor
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    Default Re: Placement of plot & main character(s) vs cast

    Quote Originally Posted by AuraSoul93 View Post
    That's true. I was wondering about my cast & just what their individual purpose was in the story. I just tend to like shows that have diversity in their casts, lets people choose their favorites easier. But what just came to mind is distinguishing the difference between a Minor Character & a Satellite Character. I've got somewhat of a grasp on the difference but I think it's really easy for Minor Characters to unknowingly slip into Satellite Character territory. What would you consider to be the dividing line?
    Yeah, but see, you specifically mention shows. With TV shows, it's a lot easier to have really big casts, because that means that different characters can get episodes in which they are the protagonist. Basically, it allows for an inception plot-within-a-plot to happen on a regular basis to keep things entertaining from week to week. For non-episodic formats, this doesn't work so well.

    You can certainly have diversity in your cast and not have a huge number of them. But if you're that worried about characters becoming "satellite" characters instead of just "minor" ones, my advice is, don't worry. Let what needs to happen within the plot happen, and if certain characters aren't getting as much attention as others, then that's just how it goes. Perhaps, if that's what you find happening, those can be the characters you simply cut from the main cast. I'm not telling you to cut them from the story altogether, but a more minor role might suit them better and give you more space to concentrate on fleshing out the main cast.

    Something I've learned from all my time as a writer is that you cannot get too attached to any one thing with your story. This is especially true for characters. You may have one of your cast of six that you really love, but as the plot progresses, you find them falling to the wayside. Sometimes, you have to make choices you don't personally like for the sake of the story, and this character may need to be cut from the main cast, or in extreme cases from the story altogether. This doesn't mean that they're a bad character, mind you - just that they don't serve the purpose of the particular plot you're writing.
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    Default Re: Placement of plot & main character(s) vs cast

    Hmm, I'm currently writing up a story with a main cast of around five characters (not sure whether or not to include a sixth one), and I find it to be quite enjoyable to write about it. While one of the charcaters is indeed the main driving force, I spend time on each of the other charcaters, I have sub-plots and side stories regarding them, that are very important to the main plot in its own sense.

    I agree on what's being said, you're trodding a territory full of burning coal - but that doesn't mean it can't be good. Just be sure that you keep it interesting. A story needs pacing, but too many characters can drag down the pacing unnecessarily. I find myself in the position that while most of the characters are indeed important to the story, and the quest of the main heroine, they can't all have the same equal importance. Some of them have to step away - not permanently, necessarily, but they will serve lesser roles at times, in order to make the plot move at the required pace. And all the same, at times they have to recieve more focus, becuase they have greater importance to that particular part of the story.

    But in the end, I can't have everyone ocnitune. After the first part of the story is done, all but two of the charcaters + the main heroine will not be featured at all, as the story moves away from their alloted slots in their lives within its universe.

    So if my experience writing this counts any, it's that you can have severa lcharacters, they can be of varying importance during the story, but the pacing is the most important thing. Keep the pacing that's relevant for the type of story you are writing, even if this means some characters will have to have their status in the character hierarchy lowered for the time being.

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