Friday, May 18, 2012

A guest post on supporting characters with Matt Adams!


Framed by his father, “reformed” supervillain Colonel Chaos, super-speedster Chris Fairborne, AKA Crimsonstreak, is sent to the Clermont Institution for the Criminally Insane. A hero surrounded by dastardly inmates and heartless guards, Chris struggles to keep his wits about him, until the arrival of some unexpected new “guests” at the facility provides him with a means for escape. Once out, though, he discovers that the world he knew is gone, replaced by a fascist, supposedly utopian state run by none other than Colonel Chaos himself.

With the heroes of the world locked away or fighting in a disorganized resistance, Crimsonstreak teams up with a snarky British butler and a teenage superhero-to-be. Together, the unlikely (and bickering) allies must take down Crimsonstreak’s dad and set the world right. Not easy when your only powers are super-speed and looking good in spandex. But hey, someone’s got to save the world.


Get By With a Little Help from Your Friends: The Importance of Supporting Character by Matt Adams

Without a doubt, the central figure in I, Crimsonstreak is our titular hero. He’s our narrator and his image is splashed across the cover. However, Crimsonstreak can’t carry the load by himself (and he’d be the first to admit this, since, well, he doesn’t have super-strength).

In every story, the protagonist needs other characters to help shoulder the burden. Crimsonstreak doesn’t necessarily like this—he has a certain disdain for sidekicks—but when you’re up against your super-powerful father and his fascist, domineering regime (the New World Common Wealth)…you’re only going to get by with little help from your friends.

Let’s introduce a few of them.

Mortimer P. Willoughby is the assistant to the Crusading Comet, another superhero. A warped version of your typical proper butler, “Morty” (as he’s affectionately called by our hero) holds down the fort as the Comet works with other superheroes to set things right.

Morty has an understated nobility often hidden behind sarcasm that cuts like a rapier. He’s not fond of Crimsonstreak for reasons we’ll never know, but he tolerates our hero because he knows Crimsonstreak is the key to saving the world. Not the kindliest mentor, but a mentor nonetheless.

Warren Kensington IV is the son of the Crusading Comet. Morty serves as his often-disapproving father figure, but sometimes Warren is too hotheaded to listen. He has a major chip on his shoulder and doesn’t trust Crimsonstreak, which creates tension between the two.

Although he’s young (Crimsonstreak often refers to Warren as “kid,” to the teen’s chagrin), Warren has an array of skills, including computer hacking, hand-to-hand combat, and espionage. Scenes with Crimsonstreak, Warren, and Morty show a reluctant camaraderie and teambuilding.

I have several strong women in my life, including my mother, mother-in-law, and wife. I felt it was important for Crimsonstreak to have similarly strong figures.

Our hero’s mother, Miss Lightspeed, appears very little in the book, yet her fingerprints are all over the narrative. She died when Crimsonstreak was a freshman in college, an event that changed the course of his life…and the world.

Miss Lightspeed is a strong woman—and I don’t mean that just because she has superpowers like otherworldly strength and speed. She’s a resolute woman who won’t let anyone push her around, least of all her husband and her son. While she performs the duties of a mother, those duties don’t define her. She will risk everything to fight for something she believes in, and doesn’t need someone to come rescue her; she’s the one doing the rescuing.

In many ways, her strength is Crimsonstreak’s as well, and he would not be the man he is today without her.

Jaci Graves is another supporting character. Like our protagonist, she’s the offspring of two well-regarded heroes. She and Crimsonstreak had a falling-out after the death of his mother, something that changed our hero and resulted in the collapse of their relationship. She’s a relatively important figure in the New World Common Wealth, the earthly empire forged by Crimsonstreak’s father. She soon realizes that this “utopia” is anything but…and aligns herself with an underground resistance.

Jaci helps mastermind a plan to take down Crimsonstreak’s father. Resourcefulness and strength are her key attributes, and she forces Crimsonstreak to realize how high the stakes are. Like Miss Lightspeed, Jaci won’t put up with any nonsense.

Creating memorable supporting characters is a challenge in any story—especially one written in first person. I worked very hard to surround my hero with characters that would both challenge and complement him.

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