Nov 20, 2009

Article: Cast Templates

Nov 20, 2009
Recently, one of our Adventure Series had progressed to the stage where we could finally plan out our main cast.

We were expecting that creating interesting characters would be the problem. We were wrong.
The problem came when there were no limitations - where any and all of our ideas could fit. I was determined to find some gauge, some touchstone from which we could narrow and mold our selection into a dynamic and workable line-up.

My Cast Template
Broad Brush-Strokes through Precedent

In many ways this post is a spiritual successor to RoT: Reactionary Devices, however this post is a lot more general, and focused on the cast as a whole. To create my template, I scrawled long unintelligible lists of details about my favourite main casts, from both shows I liked and didn't, in an attempt to see some linkage or pattern between them.

Naturally I began by matching characters to various collections of Archetypes, and while these pre-fabricated stand-ins are great for inspiration (with a shout out to my homies Theophrastus and Joseph Campbell) it was still too limiting. The Hero, The Damsel and The Big Guy Who-Seems-Tough-But-Actually-Has-A-Heart-Of-Gold are all great up to a point, but I felt my template still needed more flexibility.

Instead, I eventually decided upon three broader Character Attributes: Appearance, Mindset and Ability - each with three levels of strangeness in relation to whatever the 'norm' is in that world.
APPEARANCE - How the character appears. (Shape/Colour/Details etc)
A good cast is usually varied, showing the range of that world from the ordinary to the most ludicrous possible in the idea. And not just in shape and colour, but the sound of their names, or voices or even just their stance

Normal is usually a proportional Human - should still have interesting scars, or clothes
Unusual could be a Human with vampire teeth, or covered with tattoos or even a Half-Elf
Completely Alien could be a giant blue Dragon or an ewok
MINDSET - How the character thinks. (Personality/World-View/Priorities)
For more on balancing personalities, see RoT: Reactionary Devices

Normal is usually a reasonable person concerned with ‘the Plot’ - should still have interesting back stories, or quirks
Unusual could be a King who sees everyone as servants and cares for ‘the Plot’ only when it suites him
Completely Alien could be a bureaucrat from an alternate dimension who cares nothing for this world - like a Fixed Character, think Dr. Manhattan or even a young Buzz Lightyear!
ABILITY - How the character can act. (Physicality/Powers/Possessions)
I wasn't going to include this - however not only do most shows have at least one character with an interesting Ability, but it becomes such a strong source of inspiration that soon that's all they write about (see Voyager with '7 of 9' and The Doctor)

Example of how easy a scene is to write with a good Ability

Normal is usually a standard Human with basic capabilities of that world - should still have useful and interesting traits
Unusual could be an alien with different dietary needs, or an insanely powerful warrior or even a very rich person
Completely Alien could be a superhero robot ghost - who is also an omnipotent werewolf
Of course, in your idea Dinosaurs might be Normal, and hence having a Human in your main cast would be Completely Alien. You must scale the idea for each idea. It might be a realistic drama, and a Completely Alien Appearance might only be a wheelchair - or tall, fat or even in some ideas I've seen: Simply female.

With most shows I looked at ranging from about 3 to 5 characters, and getting progressively more out-of-the-ordinary as they go on - I've averaged it out into the following template, ordered by how central they are, with Character 1 being the Main Character and so on:

Character 1
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Character 2
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Character 3
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Character 4
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


So anyway that is the Template that I use and even though none of our ideas end up matching this - they always take on a life of their own - it has proven extremely helpful so far.

Here are a few of the ideas I looked at, and I look forward to people challenging it. I'd also love to hear what you think constitutes a good cast.


Red Dwarf

Lister
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Rimmer
(His Ability of course being a Hologram)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Kryten
(Has Appearance and Ability of a Robot)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Cat
(Catlike Humanoid who is so self-centred he barely notices the plot happening)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


- Holly is an Ancillary Character

Futurama

Fry
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Leela
(Appearance: Cyclops)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Bender
(A: Robot, M: "The What Room? The Bath What? The What What?", Ab: Robot)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Zoidberg
(M: Finds strange things normal, and vice versa - often unconcerned with plot)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Professor Farnsworth
(A: Old, Ab: Extremely Fragile)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


- Hermes and Amy are Ancillary Characters

Family Guy

Peter
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Lois
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Brian
(A: Dog, P: Dog)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Stewie
(A: Baby, M: Megalomanic, Ab: Dirty Diapers)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


- I believe Meg and Chris are Ancillary Characters


The Mighty Boosh

Vince Noir
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Howard Moon
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Naboo
(A: Strange Dress and Really Short, M: Not from this world, Ab: Magic and Knowledge)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Bollo
(A: Gorilla, M: Slavish Animal Familiar)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


- Bob Fossil is an Ancillary Character


South Park

Stan
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Kyle
(Ab: Jewish - I'm not racist, it's listed here because the show often makes use of this)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Eric
(A: Obese, M: Often portrayed as an antagonist)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Kenny
(A: Hooded and kind of Mute, Ab: Even though he is technically immortal, the show doesn't use this)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______



Avatar: The Last Airbender

Aang
(Ab: Assuming being a Bender is Normal)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Katara
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Sokka
(Ab: Not having powers is Unusual in this world)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Toph
(Ab: Blind, rich and with some unusual Bending abilities)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______



Labyrinth

Sarah
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Hoggle
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Ludo
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Sir Didymus
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______



Fantastic Four (The Movie, as the Comic varies too much)

Mr Fantastic
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____


The Invisible Woman
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____


The Human Torch
(A: Drawn in flames, M: Focused on Women and Fame)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____


The Thing
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____



Pirates of the Caribbean

Will Turner
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Elizabeth Swann
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Jack Sparrow
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______



Star Wars

Luke Skywalker
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Leia Organa
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Obi-Wan Kenobi
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Han Solo
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Chewbacca
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


- C-3P0 and R2-D2 were more like Narrators or Looking Glass Characters


The Princess Bride

Westley
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Buttercup
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Inigo Montoya
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Fezzik
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Top Gear

Jeremy Clarkson
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Richard Hammond
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


James May
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


The Stig
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______



The IT Crowd

Roy
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Jen
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Moss
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Richmond
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______



Fawlty Towers

Basil
(A: Taller than everyone)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Sybil
(M: Often some sort of antagonist)
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Polly
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______


Manuel
_____Appearance___________Mindset_____________Ability______

4 comments:

  1. I would say Rimmer's appearance is unusual because of the 'H' on his forehead. And Kryton would have an Unusual mindset because of his obsession with servitude.

    Awesome post. I reckon there's a lot to discuss here.

    ReplyDelete
  2. omnipotent werewolf,now my new facebook status.
    thanks to you im gonna find my self over analysing shows and movies and characters, which i think is a good thing. so...ive noticed you like graphs, tables and catergories

    ReplyDelete
  3. omnipotent werewolf could be a band name!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Graphs + Tables + Categories = Everything Fits Eventually

    Omnipotent Werewolf = Excellent Band Name

    ReplyDelete

 
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