*Colin and Betty from Pinky TA
When you write a big long story that goes over many chapters and arcs, things tend to evolve, grow and expand quite a bit outside of what you originally envisaged. What I'm talking about here are side characters- These are people that may have started life as sidekicks, or reflection characters (as in Bane's newspost from last Thursday), or just background colour, but later in your writing you feel (or they do), that they need a voice of their own.
It can be such a rewarding and interesting thing to have a character, who grew organically through your story, grow up and become a main character in their own right. Often their role wasn't planned from the start like it was with the main cast, protagonists and antagonists etc; they we just background, or served the needs of a particular arc, or you thought it would be cool to try something new so you threw them in as an experimental side character… Down the road when your story has becomes more complex you will often need more people to carry the load, and where else can you mine them from if not side characters?
The audience has some knowledge of these people, having seen them form in earlier pages, so their promotion to the main stage seems completely natural and appropriate, not jarring like it can be with a new character. In fact it's really interesting to learn more about them, it lends more colour and meat to your comic world so there's an added benefit. It also means you don't have to spend a lot of effort introducing them, you can use elements from their previous appearances in your story to inform their current dialogue and through that you can expand upon you story by giving differing viewpoints of past events.
An example from my own comic is Colin and Betty, who made their appearance as side characters in chapter 6 of Pinky TA. In chapter 8 they've come to the fore to man the other line of the story alongside Pinky. They don't have MUCH character, because I'm not a great writer and I'm a slow comic artist to boot, but it was really useful to be able to draw them from an earlier chapter for their roles here- I needed workers who would have their own opinions and history with Pinky, but would be subservient to her… these two fit the bill perfectly.
Another example I can readily think of is Tredd from Putrid Meat. He began as a means for Bones to get a tank, like Jet Girl in the movie version of Tank Girl, but has since become a VERY main character in his own right, shouldering more of the story than Bones in the later part of the comic.
Another perfect example of this is the comic Charby the Vampirate. Amy is always adding new people to her scenes for whatever reason and then giving them entire story arcs just because, one after another! This has given her a gigantic cast with many entangled storylines, but it's meant there's a hell of a lot of variation and different voices in her comics.
This is often done in long running TV series: it helps to break things up and takes the pressure off of the actors playing the lead roles, as well as broadening the universe of the show a little for the audience. The Star Trek franchise of TV series and even the Venture Brothers did this, famously expanding the role of minor henchman character “Twenty Six” to that of a main story-leading character in the series. Mainstream comics famously do this as a way of trying out new things to catch reader interest and give their writers and artists a chance to put their own stamp on the work without the risk of changing more established character. This was also the way Raymond E Fiest would come up with new leads for his storylines in his Riftwar Saga series.
So next time you want to add a new perspective to your story, carry things in a new direction, try doing a story with multiple storylines, or just feel like adding a new voice to the cast, consider promoting a side character instead of bringing in someone totally new. They can bring a lot of hidden benefits with them to your work and have a much lower bar for audience acceptance.
-Ozoneocean writing instead of Banes today :)
ozoneocean at 12:00AM, May 26, 2016
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