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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Taking Characters in a New Direction- Writing 101

Sometimes a character runs their course in a storyline. There’s nothing else a writer can do with them on the story path that.

That’s when it’s time for a writer to change course. To take a character in a new direction.

Dead...But alive with promise!
For example after Isis speared E’steem at the end of Isis and she died, it seemed like the character had run her course. She was the principal villain of the piece and with her defeated at the conclusion of the story there were no more stories to tell with her.

Of course I could tell more Isis stories, but they wouldn’t have been good stories. How many times could Isis have fought E’steem? How many schemes could E’steem have plotted to kill Isis in her quest to get Ladyship in Hell?

After about the third of such of these plots things in Isis’ world would have gotten repetitive and boring. Sure this kind of monotony and repetition is great for a series focused at very small children like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but for older readers it’s no fun at all.

And I can tell readers from experience it’s no fun to write either. No good writer wants to go around in circles writing the same stories over and over and over again.

To avoid this kind of stagnation, a writer has to take a character in a new direction.

New directions for characters enable a writer to move a character forward. Sometimes a character has stalled creatively. It seems like every story possibly has been told that can be told. That’s when it’s time to change course.

Smart writers know at the end of every story is a beginning. And at the end of a story conclusion is an opportunity to take an existing character in a new direction.

New directions also allow writers to introduce new characters and expand a characters’ world. Sometimes in order to grow a character a writer has to go out of their world into a new one.

A character who just needed
 the right story told about her
When I killed E’steem in Isis, it seemed like the character had nowhere else to go creatively. Unfortunately, without Isis’ principal antagonist, the Isis series had no place to go as well.

So I had to bring her back. In The Politics of Hell, I use a technicality to bring E’steem back from the dead. However I didn’t want the character to return to the stagnant Isis Vs. E’steem plot. So I did some things to change her direction.

To keep the storyline interesting when I brought E’steem back I had to introduce a new antagonist. And with E’steem being a powerful herald to a rogue god, I needed to introduce someone more powerful than E’steem.

The next Chapter of E'steem's story.
Bringing in a new more powerful antagonist like Lucifer allowed me start E’steem down the road to becoming a protagonist in her own stories readers could relate to and identify with instead of someone readers hated.
Moreover, with Lucifer being more powerful than E’steem he was an powerful antagonist that would give E’steem a challenge to overcome in her quest for political power.

I also further explored the Heirarchy of Hell. By promoting E’steem I moved past the stale Kill a god to get ladyship plotline. While She does have a confrontation with Isis, the primary focus is on her tryinig to outwit Lucifer.

At the end of The Politics of Hell, E’steem winds up defeated not only defeated by Isis, but outwitted by Lucifer as well. Lying at Lucifer’s feet she realizes she’s been conned by the father of lies.

Story wise, that defeat at Isis’ hands in the Politics of Hell ends E’steem’s conflict with Isis and begins her conflict with Lucifer. And that Change of conflict and changed the direction of the character I left for dead. Giving E’steem a new life. Making the character fresh again for a new audience of readers.

The final chapter in E'steem's new direction.
With this new direction I was able to fast forward the E’steem character a hundred or so years later She’s still in the library of Hell in that dead end job. But from a writers’ standpoint she’s ready to be taken to the next level in her new direction. A direction I explore further in The Temptation of John Haynes.

At the beginning of Temptation, The E’steem character is still in the process of change. On the surface she’s still a villain, but readers can sympathize with her. They see her in this dead-end job going nowhere.

But even when a character is in a dead end they’re still going somewhere. E’steem was still moving forward in her new direction. And those changes in direction were allowing me to further develop things for the better story wise.

By changing the E’steem character’s direction I was able to introduce new characters into her storyline. Without this change of direction, I would never have been able to introduce John Haynes and his supporting cast.

Nor would I have been able to expand the world of Lucifer’s Legion. Thanks to this new direction I took the E’steem character in, I was further able to explore the hierarchy of Hell and the subtle politics transpiring behind it. The modern “Corporate Hell” component allowed me to make things relatable to new readers and refreshed the older Hell as a hierarchy concept from Isis.

In addition to making the concept relatable, changing E’steem into a humanized corporate company flunky allowed me to use her as a catalyst for change. The relationship she has with John Haynes enables his character to change and move forward changing from a shy vulnerable man to a confident leader. And as their romance progresses, The E’steem character starts to have conflicts in herself. Conflicts that make her question the direction of her life. Conflicts that further change the direction of the character.

All these internal conflicts lead up to the powerful climax of The Temptation of John Haynes. E’steem’s makeout with John session where she tries to seduce him is contrasted by her inner personal struggles. Confronted by her desires to do good, she takes control of her life. By refusing to do what Lucifer sends her out to do, ironically she takes the very power she tried to get through achieving Ladyship in Isis!

At the conclusion of The Temptation of John Haynes, E’steem finishes her change in direction from villainess to heroine. And that ending opened up the door to new beginnings for her.
At the end of The Temptation of John Haynes I allude to E’steem reconciling with Osiris. That hint opened the door for all the Isis characters to come through.

Endings and beginnings.

A new story begins for E'steem
This brings her full circle.
The ending of The Temptation of John Haynes allowed me to write Isis: Amari’s Revenge and reintroduce the goddess in modern times.

Will E’steem stay a heroine? Yeah. Her story in the realm of Hell has pretty much concluded. And the new direction has allowed the character to grow and change in ways she couldn’t have as just a villain in Isis.

A new direction can give a character new life. Moreover it can allow a writer an opportunity to expand a characters’ world, introduce new characters and expand on new concepts. Don’t give up on a character when a character seems like their story has run its course. Sometimes all it takes is a different approach to storytelling to breathe new life into them and make their stories fresh and exciting again.

1 comment:

  1. Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to create a superb article… but what can I say… I put things off a lot and never manage to get nearly anything done.