Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cast of Thousands

Part Two

Layering Complexity

...Brockmann calls it Cast of Thousands. I've always called it a style I really like. You know how in movies you do "wide screen" so you get all the stuff in the corners? Cast of thousands is a slang word for an "epic" or fully realized world. Not that all worlds aren't fully realized, just that some are more fully drawn. The people who live in worlds like that are people who live and age and have lives of their own, so when you re-connect with them later, they'll have changed just like real people.

In other words, minor characters also have a character arc. But since it's off stage, you never see them. Brockmann explains these people as "placeholders", you know--the guys who "do" certain things. Walk on bits, people you wave at in passing--the guy who drops off your pizza, the landlady, the guy whose kid Connor saved.

In a world with CT ('cause I'm tired of writing "cast of thousands")Kai would continue to exist. He's semi-legit, well off, very powerful--got a kid, maybe a wife, I don't know yet. He lives somewhere in SE Asia. I need Connor to stay somewhere that isn't connected to StallingCo. He could stay at the local Marriot, BUT Kai has a boutique hotel on Temple Street. I'm layering my world by using someone with a reason to be in Singapore, who owns a hotel--AND owes Connor a debt that was set up in the previous book. And I mentioned his kid, so if I need a "cute" kid for some reason, there's a kid already in place who already has a shared background.

This probably works better for a continuing series, but if you're going to build a world, complexity is good. You need a pizza delivery guy and the occasional secretary. They don't always have to be fully fleshed--just enough to get from point A to point B, but what there is should go into a file so if you need someone, and that someone is someone who you used before--WITH a legitimate reason to be where you need him, that person can be layered over again, like a watercolor.

Brockmann uses Alvarado as an example. In one of her earlier books, the one where Sam and Alyssa get together--there's a subplot that intersects with a detective named Ric Alvarado. You don't get a lot of description or layers. Just that this guy is hot, young and has a soul patch under his lip. He tries to pick up a secondary character, it doesn't work out, and he disappears from the story. He's used to drive a plot point, and with the point driven home--there's no further need for him, so he exits stage left.

Over the course of the next couple of books, if someone is in Florida and happens to be in that police station, or in that area--Ric comes up in passing. Maybe he's in the station, or someone says he's out on assignment, but you know he's there.

At the same time the rest of the books are progressing along their time-lines, maybe Ric gets a little older, and starts hating police work, maybe he wants to do his own thing, so by the time Brockmann does a story about Ric we know quite a lot about him because of his interactions as part of her established world. ANDif he needs someone to be in place for him, hey--that guy he was inciting to violence through his pursuit of Gina? That guy is an FBI negotiator, and the connections go on and on.

It's not a cast of thousands in the generic sense, but a cast of many, where everybody needs to pull their weight. And it doesn't mean everyone needs to show up all the time. I like Corlis and Fallon, but they don't belong in DG. Nothing I can do will make them show up--they simply have no reason to be in that place at that time. Like a camera with a wide screen lens? I'm panning over to the right, and what's to the left of the sound stage is temporarily out of the picture.


Alice Audrey said...

Darn! Well, you'll be panning left later. I can wait.

jodi said...

*wah* but I LIKE Tris and Connor. I have a picture of Fallon on my wall, and Cowboy drew a picture of Corlis (just a sketch, nothing real detailed)--they'll be back in Fatal Impact. It's why I took all those pictures of Richmond. I gotta have someplace for Fallon to hide in the bushes. :)

Alice Audrey said...

That's why I'm not worried. I know you'll get back to them.

Um... are you done with this one yet? Just hoping. :)

jodi said...

lol--er, not quite. BUT I am doing much better than I did. Which means I'm putting out pages again on a regular basis, not just a sporadic--oh yeah! But a nice steady, I can do it. I'm hoping to be done before the conference. Thanks, Alice...I need that push. :)

Kaige said...

Grats on the slow and steady progress!

I love books with rich backgrounds and connected universes. This really is a small world we live in, so it's not too much to expect to see people with connections in recurring roles. They don't necessarily have to be deeply interconnected series either, just set in a familiar world and a brief visit with some old friends is good enough for me.

Unhinged said...

Yeah, this is exactly what I want to do. It's going to be tricky, because I usually pan left of center.