29 Sep 2016

NaNoPrep 2016 Casting - Commentary

Meta commentary!  Ooh!

Last week, I laid out the characters I'd need for potential project.  After all, without characters, it's not so much a story as it is a 50 000 word essay.  Today, a look into how the ideas came together in the first place.

In general, stories come in two different ways; either I have a character looking for a setting and a plot or a plot looking for a setting and a character.  Rare is the setting that is looking for plot and characters, though Colony Base 183 is turning out that way.  When I have a character, the cast tends to boil down to one or two main characters with others added as needed.  The plot comes from the character, either because of what he or she* can do or is what is being done to him or her.  Subject 13 is a prime example; Nasty grew out of my desire to throttle people over the phone while doing front line phone firewall** work.  The rest grew as I worked out who Nasty was.  In this case, I know more about the character than I do the rest of the story, but can toss in events and know how the lead will react.  The setting is partially baked into the main character; she doesn't exist in a vacuum and will have roots of some sort that can be exploited as needed.

The flipside is starting with an idea for a plot.  At this point, I start working out what character roles I'll need.  Beaver Flight began this way.  Here, the idea was an alien invasion, specifically a "Venus Needs Men!" approach, coupled with the Arrogant Worms' "We Are the Beaver".  I needed the Canadian flight to have a leader, a technician, a linguist, and a scientist, then worked out who those characters would be.  When starting with a plot, I sometimes don't have a full handle on who the characters are, and have to stop and work out details in the middle of a scene.  The answer to "How would Tori react if she was abducted by aliens?" turned out weirder than expected.

Sometimes, similar sounding ideas come up.  Take the three different ideas of amateur detectives in university from last week's post.  Each one is different, but possibly just in my own head.  The Lakehead group is very much in their own setting, and is more focused on a modern reality.  The Carleton group, though, flirts with the supernatural and owes a bit to Scooby-Doo and Ghostbusters.  The third group is more focused on the main characters' dysfunctional families while still solving minor crimes.  Could they be merged?  Not really, not without effort that could break the core concepts of each idea.  However, the Shadowrun ideas do run into each other and into By the Numbers because of the shared setting.  Skater had an appearance in By the Numbers and could easily have a cameo in the webcomic.

Setting should get a mention.  Several of the ideas, particularly the ones set in universities, are easy to place.  Two of the universities exist, and I've checked one's website to get an idea of how its residences are laid out.  The other, I can just make a trip on a weekend to verify a detail or two if needed, as long as I don't have to enter a building.  Even then, I know enough of the buildings on campus that I can extrapolate as needed.  A classroom is a classroom.  Draconic Magic, though, needs work.  Right now, I have a village or town in the distance, a dragon's lair in a mountain, and a wind-swept rock where the villagers/townsfolk leave their sacrifices to the dragon.  I do need more, though I will borrow from The Elf's Prisoner for how magic works.  Maybe last year's NaNo project didn't work out, but I did start building a world that I can plunder for its good ideas.

There's still over a month to get ready.  The key thing for me is to choose a project, and keep it chosen, unlike last year.

Tomorrow, a new serial.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, insights from Can-ConSF 2016.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, first impressions of the new MacGuyver.

* Most likely, "she".
** Tech support for an ISP.

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