Friday, October 29, 2010

Casting Characters

blog2Last Sunday, my husband and I took my daughter to church (our son was camping.)

Our church has a children’s moment worked into the service—a time for all the elementary-aged kids to come forward and listen to a homily by the youth pastor. The homily is usually themed, very short, and with a clear message.

Sunday’s lesson? I can’t remember exactly what it was. That’s because the youth minister asked the children what they were going to be for Halloween (as a sort of warm-up question), and my daughter loudly proclaimed she was going to be the devil.

It is true that she’s going to be a (cute) devil for Halloween. If I’d known the minister was going to ask such a question, though, I probably would have advised her not to pipe up that she was going to be Satan.

But then, this is a Presbyterian church (and a very laid-back one, at that) and the congregation burst out laughing both at what she said, where she said it, and the youth pastor’s Art Linkletter expression as he looked out at the crowd. My daughter, of course, was totally baffled at the reaction, not really seeing the good vs. evil implication. She just liked the costume.

Still...the devil wasn’t really the right casting for the minister’s homily.

It got me thinking about my own character casting. Because I do it, almost without thinking about what I’m doing.

If there’s not enough conflict, I add a character that grates on people’s nerves (and might end up being an additional victim.) If the book seems too serious, I’ll cast a funny character to bring some humor in.

But sometimes I miscast, too. I’ll put a character in who is too strong of a character and he or she steals the spotlight too many times. I’ll have to change the character or tone him down. Sometimes a character just changes the whole dynamics of the story (like the devil in the pastor’s homily.) Then I completely jettison the character, if it doesn’t work out.

Because the protagonist can’t do it all. They can’t carry the whole book and all its elements. Well, I guess they can, but it’s difficult. Much easier to have a cast of characters to support the protagonist or trip him up. As long as they’ve been well-cast.

Have you ever had to rein a character in or pull one out completely because of miscasting? Or added a new character to the cast because something was lacking?