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Thread: Central Casting

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW rwhegwood's Avatar
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    Central Casting

    I've a question about what others have discovered of their own...shall we say...writing mind, and I wonder if I what I notice in myself is simply me, or if it is a phenomenon that is more common among those who write?

    Have any of you noticed you have a kind of cast of characters, or rather character types, that keep entering your stories...indeed they tell your stories in various costumes under changing names story to story.

    For me, many of my stories...somewhere in them have a naif, an elderly mentor figure, magic trees, and a misfit. I may have others on stage but somewhere either as major or minor characters these figures show up, often unbidden, but until they do the story doesn't resolve.

    For example, the tree has featured over the years as: God, a prophetic forest (I ask of Stok a question when I was but a lad, and when I had grown very old, the hasty answer had), an interplanetary transport network (two different variations), a magic shield and host for a magic truffle, a sanctuary/animal den, a mystical marker (hard to explain...the naif climbs it, disappears for hours without a clue, and returns slightly worse for wear just as inexplicably), an edenic symbol... I could go on, but I have only a couple of stories, generally flash, where no tree of significance appears. The naif often combined with the misfit is almost universal in my stories. There is the child with great powers who fears to become a monster, the little girl with the bubblegum balloons which cast shadows of the future, the young buck who grows up to be something mythical, a boy who no one believes trying to save his uncle from another dimension, a murdered child prince broght back by ancient magics to exact revenge, a brain-damaged holy fool (of sorts), a scullion, a creche born misfit orphan raised in a boarding school/home run by sentient baboons, a sentient scent, an off stage suicide, an orphaned outcast singer (sentient parrot) a misfit monk...again I could go on, but the naif-misfit is rarely not to be found in my stories large or small.

    I first became aware of this sort of thing reading Hawthorne's short stories. He has a cast of types that he mixed and matched in all sorts of ways to tell his stories...they are in a way his vocabulary. There is the fallen woman, the innocent, the effete intellectual/aesthete, the hardy frontiersman, the strong woman, the devil, and the iron pilgrim. Sometimes they are all separate characters, sometimes combined. For example in the Scarlet Letter, Hester Pryne is the both the fallen woman and the strong woman, Pearl is innocent, Dimsdale the aesthete, and Chillingsworth a mix of iron pilgrim, frontiersman, and the devil. In Artist of the Beautiful there is a woman who "falls in love" with the hardy frontiersman who are both friends with the aesthete tinker (who crushed all his life on the woman who fell in love with the brawny beau instead of him), and the baby of the happy couple, who is also the devil figure (who destroys the magnum opus of the tinker) with a chubby little hand. In Rappocinni's Daughter the fallen woman is also the innocent (she is the genetically merged/mutated sibling of a toxic tree)...and in a way the devil (she poisons whoever she touches and so is doomed to live without love...sort of like the tinker...the thing that made them special also cut them off from full integration with society.

    After noticing it in Hawthorne, I began to notice the recurring motifs in my own writing. And it has borne out over many years of reflection. So I wonder in your own story minds and conceptual universes, are there characters, motifs, etc. that recur in your own creative endeavors? Do you have a cast of types who put on the costumes of each new story's characters/setting, but it is the same cast in differing guises and combinations that almost always appear?
    Last edited by rwhegwood; 10-13-2017 at 11:25 AM.

  2. #2
    cutsie-pie Curlz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rwhegwood View Post
    For me, many of my stories...somewhere in them have a naif, an elderly mentor figure, magic trees, and a misfit.
    I think you're talking about archetypes. It's just a typical example of a certain person and it's very distinctive, easily recogniseable, so they do stand out. It's actually very difficult to write without using them. Most writers do stick to a certain "cast" of characters because they use the archetypes of the genre they write in, and top of my head it's difficult to think of somebody who diesn't. I always end up with a Tom Cruise character for some reason But then again, he can be quite diverse in portraying people, so they are not all the same! I think the question of whether your characters are different or look as the same person is a different issue. Even if you have "the elderly mentor figure" in two different stories, they can be two different characters miles apart if one is like Mr Miyagi from the Karate Kid and the other one is like Gandalf from LOTR.

  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW rwhegwood's Avatar
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    Not archtypes, necessarily, though they can be. Mentor is an archtype, but they don't have to be a kindly old person. I'm talking about a go to cast of characters that recur frequently in your stories. Take my example of a "magic" tree. In one story it may be a mentor, in anotherror it may be the protagonist, in another it may be an important set piece, in another a prominent bit of scenery. The archtyplal use is incidental to the fact that in a variety of roles across a range of stories, a tree is almost always present as a character, or prominant/important bit of scenery/symbology. The tree is part of my cast of story telling characters.
    .

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW autumnleaf's Avatar
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    Hmm, now that I think of it, there are certain recurring "types":

    - The strong woman. A female character who has endured a lot and is tough-minded.
    - The traveler (usually male)
    - The innocent child
    - The protective mother, who may or may not be the same as the strong woman, and whose protectiveness can be either positive or negative
    - The best friend
    - The trickster, who is sometime the same as the best friend
    - The villain who tells uncomfortable truths
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  5. #5
    Seashell Seller Layla Nahar's Avatar
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    I often have strong but wounded anti-social MCs.
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  6. #6
    All about that action, boss. ElaineA's Avatar
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    I find that I keep writing the "same" character over and over in different guises. I think Stephen King has talked about this somewhere. I can't lay my hands on it, but I recall him saying something about finding himself poking particular stock "characters" from different angles in different stories.

    When I go back and reread my own old work, I find I've recycled and remodeled the same general character many times. I assume it's my brain continuously trying to get it "right" or working out some psychological thing on the page instead of in real life.

    Maybe that's a bit different from reusing the same character motifs, though.
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  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW rwhegwood's Avatar
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    I think it's in the same ballpark.

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