I am currently preparing to write the second draft of an audio script. One aspect of this process (for me, at any rate), is to think about whether any new characters might be introduced, either to address specific issues with the previous draft, or just to give the narrative a good shake and see whether anything interesting falls out.
In this case, I decided to introduce two characters and significantly redevelop another. The first of these is a major addition, who will be responsible for driving a large part of the main plot, but the other two – who go by the names of Kelly and Faisal – are micro-roles; they appear separately, each in their own scene, with their own specific plot function, and they will probably only have a few of lines each.
Now, way down my to do list were a couple of bullet points, “Kelly Background” and “Faisal Background”, reminding me that I should really flesh these characters out a bit before getting stuck in to the actual writing. To be honest though, I was in two minds. After all, I knew the roles they needed to perform to keep the narrative wheels turning, and their limited amount of dialogue would not be sufficient to get across much character detail anyway. Surely devoting valuable time to their backgrounds and personalities was little more than displacement activity to avoid having to do anything that might actually be productive.
Anyway, displacement or otherwise, I decided to go ahead and give a little time to each of them to see if anything worthwhile came out of it. I wasn’t following any particular strategy; I knew roughly who the characters were and I just wrote down whatever came to mind about what they might be like as people and how they could have arrived at the point where their lives collide with my story.
Pretty quickly, I began to realise that this was not wasted time. Kelly gained a home town, an uninspiring CV, a series of romantic disappointments and a steely resilience that had pulled her through these experiences in one piece. Faisal gained a group of friends, an inappropriate career move, a collection of modest hopes and dreams, and a long-term lack of self-confidence.
None of this was particularly deep stuff; I was drawing on loose impressions and even cliché, but it was nonetheless quite a lot of backstory in comparison to the size of the actual roles of these characters in the story. Hardly any of the material that I wrote down will actually make it into the new draft – there is no way that it could, unless the characters decided to inappropriately spout their life histories to my protagonist – but I do think it will inform the way that I write the scenes that they are in. I can already imagine them interacting with my other characters in quite a different way, a more interesting way than what I had envisaged when they were just plot devices.
Gloriously and irrelevantly, I even found myself wondering about what would happen if these two people were to meet. Would they get on? What would they say to each other? How would such a meeting even come about, given that they live in different cities on different continents? Could I play fictional matchmaker and concoct a scenario that would cast them as star crossed lovers, overcoming formidable cultural barriers and thousands of miles of distance to find happiness in each other (on balance, probably not)?
In short, although they will never have any existence beyond their few lines in a script that may itself never see the light of day, I did fall a little bit in love with Kelly and Faisal. I do hope everything works out for them.
Thomas Oléron Evans, 2015