Dragon Reign: Dramatis Personae in Real Life and Fiction by David F. Berens
My first fantasy novel, Dragon Reign – Book 1 of the One Prophecy, began its life in the form of a novella called Dragon Tails – Or Warriors Roasting on an Open Fire. Its sole purpose was to record the adventures my friends and I were having in our weekly role-playing games. All I wanted was to preserve for posterity the storyline that we were living out because it seemed unique, funny, exciting and entertaining! As I got further into recording this story, I found that my biggest challenges came from character development and plotting. While plotting was mostly in the hands of our game leader, the players were in control of their characters. So, when writing these characters, it was only natural to use the player as the guide. In Dragon Reign, I play the part of Finegan, thus his dialogue, his attitudes, his motives, and his moves, are all drawn from my own personality. As you might have guessed, almost every character has a real person who serves as my character sketch when writing them. This makes it easy to remember what the character looks like, acts like, sounds like, etc.
This also helps invest the plotting of the novel as well. If I would act a certain way in a situation, it is very likely that Finegan would act that way too. I can’t read the minds of the other characters, but since I know the real-life players behind the characters, I can more easily predict (or choose) how that character would react to a Red Dragon appearing in front of them or an Elven maiden showing up at the door.
I use this method of character sketching and plotting even if there isn’t a personal reference by attaching an actor to a character to better help me reveal that character. For instance, I’ve enlisted Danny Devito as a character sketch in my upcoming thriller, Hat Check – A Troy Bodean Adventure. I don’t know Mr. Devito, but given that I assign certain personality traits and physical traits to him, I can more easily flesh out his character or the character I’ve determined is like him. When I’m writing, I often open a separate document and paste internet-searched pictures of the actor or person I’ve assigned to that character into the document with a few notes about what their name is, what purpose they serve in the plot, etc. If I ever need a reference when writing about that character, I just click open that document and, voila, there they are in flesh and blood.
I also like to keep the separate threads of the plot balanced with what I call a plot map. I have an outline document open with my basic chapter outlines listed and the characters that are shown in each chapter. I represent each character/plot line with a different color allowing me to glance at the outline and make sure the story is a balanced look at each plotline. This allows me to move the completed chapters around to make the story flow better and not leave one set of characters hanging for too long, or bore the reader with the same characters over and over and over.
I’m using all of these techniques in the second book in the One Prophecy series called Searing Reign. As a teaser, I’m using Jared Leto’s portrayal of The Joker as my antagonist! Hmmm, sounds interesting. I’m excited to see how it turns out!
David F. Berens has been a certified USPTA Elite Tennis Professional since 2001. His experience in tennis has taken him from city parks to exclusive resorts and island getaways. Today he calls Knoxville, Tennessee home.
He has also been a writer most of his life and went to Carson-Newman College and East Tennessee State University to obtain his English Literature degree.