One of the most important services you can offer a client is to get to know the characters in their story. You’ll evaluate the story based on the characters and how they relate to the story.
Making a list of the characters in every scene forces you to focus on the character arc, how many characters are in each scene, the character names. Once you know and remember the character names, can keep track of the characters.
Characters in a scene are those who have a role in the scene. If you think of a play, the characters in a scene are the characters on the stage. The characters mentioned in a scene are those who the characters on stage talk about.
So let’s get into detail.
The moment a character enters a story, their character arc begins.
The first time a character appears, they must be introduced to the reader. This is where you as the editor evaluate how much time was spent on describing the character. Ask yourself, was the description the right amount for the importance of the character in the story.
For a major character, the writer should place more emphasis on introducing the character.
For a minor character, the writer should describe as little as possible and still keep the reader engaged and not confused.
When describing a character for the first time, the writer should describe the character so the reader:
- Can conjure up a physical image of the character.
- Understands the POV character’s interpretation of the new character.
Review how a new character is presented. Consider their appearance, how they speak, what their mannerisms are, their actions, and how they interact with other characters. Also, consider whose eyes the new character is being seen from and check if the description something that character would think or feel.
For example, a rough and tumble character might look at a banker from a city and sneer at the manicured fingernails, whereas a pedicurist might look at the same character and be impressed with the care the person takes in their appearance.
Recommend the writer cut details that don’t move the story forward. For example, if a character’s length of time in their job is not important, then recommend the writer cut that detail.
The last scene for a character in the story is the end of the character arc.
Too Many Characters:
The more time a reader spends with a character, the more time they have to connect with that character. If there are too many characters, the reader doesn’t get enough time with the important characters.
Mark the scenes within the story where you think there are too many characters and make suggestions on how the writer can reduce the number.
Review the list of characters and look for names that are too similar to each other. Names that start with the same letter, have the same number of syllables, or end with same letters can confuse the reader. Tell your writer if this is the case and make suggestions on how they could fix the issue.
Keep Track of Characters:
Keeping track of characters, means knowing if the main characters are in the key scenes.
With a list of characters per scene, you can look for the following issues:
1 Protagonist not in the key scenes:
It’s important the protagonist is in the major scenes such as the inciting incident, plot points, and climax. Without the protagonist in the climax scene, the reader will be disappointed. Learn more about the protagonist’s character arc. A character arc is either an internal emotional arc or an external arc. The external arc is as important to the story as the internal character arc. Of all the characters, the protagonist’s arc is the most important arc in a story.
2 Protagonist and Antagonist Together:
If there is a lack of tension in the story a writer and put the protagonist and antagonist in the same scene.
- Review how a new character is presented and evaluate appropriateness.
- Mark the scenes within the story where you think there are too many characters and make suggestions on how the writer can reduce the number.
- Review the list of characters and look for names that are too similar to each other.
- List what scenes the protagonist and/or antagonist are in.
These few actions will help you get to know the characters and make specific recommendations to your clients.
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