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Writing Tips 22 - Two heads is better than one


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Sometimes it's good to keep your stories focus on the main character and have everything revolve around them in a way that makes it feel like we're reading their story. But sometimes things are better an entirely different way.

Giving your audience -- and yourself -- more than one character to love can be an astounding thing.

Each of your characters, regardless of whether it's a side character, the antagonist, the love interest, or the main character, every character in your cast should have something to offer and the more diverse your characters are in this aspect (especially in terms of personality and values), the more people your audience will have to relate to, and latch on to.

Even if your story focuses on that main character, adding in other characters that give the audience more people to like can have huge benefits to a story.

Take The Martian for example; I have yet to read the book so I'll stick to the movie for this lesson. The movie casts Matt Damon as an astronaut who accidentally gets left on Mars by the rest of the crew after they believed him to be dead.

The story's entire focus is centered on how he survives on a deserted planet by himself, BUT, right from the beginning his character has an established repour with the others that tells you everything you need to know about them. The other characters have lives of their own and personalities that are quite enjoyable, and more importantly, relatable. Even though they don't get nearly as much screen time as the main character Mark, you can immediately tell who you relate to and who you don't.

Another good example is the anime Fairy Tail, which provides a whole guild full of characters that are from all walks and all personalities. The benefit of a much longer running series, compared to a single movie, is obvious. The more time you spend with a character -- as you would a person -- the more you will find to like or dislike about them.

I know it can be tough to create more than one character like that, and to showcase it when they are not the main character but trust me, it's worth it. When you have a cast like this, it doesn't matter how much "screen time" they get, it will be easier to write them and their characteristics will shine through regardless of what they're doing because you as the writer will understand better who they are and how they would do things.

For example, a good albeit cookie-cutter cast of characters to have is a trio including: A serious /smart person, the comedic relief (my personal favorite being a snarky or sarcastic character), and a caring / gentler person (typically with noble ideals or just generally someone who cares most about their loved ones being safe, happy, and healthy).

You can get quite creative with the types of characters you have though. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a prime example of an astounding character cast; particularly the Avengers movies.

You have a lot of different people who share a few things in common amongst themselves and there are many different characters to love. Some may favor Iron man over Captain America, some may favor Hulk or Thor, and some (like myself) may find themselves favoring your antagonists or anti-heroes such as Loki and Deadpool.

I hope that examples illustrates my point.

Having different kinds of characters will not only help capture your imagination and enable some shenanigans by using the cast's inter-personal relationships, but also capture the hearts and love of a larger audience.

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