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Pairing Characters

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Ashe, Apr 4, 2021.

  1. Ashe

    Ashe Acolyte

    I'm planning out certain things for my story (brief explanation : magical students shoved into a school for magically gifted, someone murders and the students have to solve it while maintaining normal classes and not attract attention)
    I came across a problem while planning. I've made 31 student characters that i'm willing to explore. the rest will be small background characters. It's an academy with dorms, two per dorm, so i've run into the issue of "Who do i pair with who?" I wasn't planning on a male and female sharing a room, due to that being.. against most school's policy..
    Should I pair them randomly, by name, by ability, or change it to 1 per dorm?
    I'm open to other suggestions too..
  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I would start with the ones who solve the murder. I'm thinking not all thirty-one are going to do that!

    My current project involves multiple people being the detective and it gets tricky. Most mysteries get solved by a single detective. It's possible to dole out roles--the classic case is Holmes and Watson, or Nero Wolfe and Archie--but that's only two roles. You really can't subdivide too far.

    Let's call it four. So, two pairs of roomies. Everyone else is secondary. How you pair them is of, er, secondary importance. But how you pair the majors needs to be central to the story. I'd spend most of my time there. Backstory. Relationships. All that.

    You do have an odd person out, with thirty-one. That offers possibilities. The extra person could serve as red herring villain, as awkward third person in a crowded room (love triangle?), or as dorm supervisor authority figure.

    But fully fleshing out all thirty-one? Only if this is going to be a long series with different pairs taking center stage in different books.

    IMO, obviously.
  3. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    I would also focus mostly on the main main characters, heh. Those who will feature the most in the story, i.e. have the most screen time or most words devoted to them.

    I do think having a basic idea of each of the others in the group of 31 is a decent idea, if for no other reason than having handy foils, scenery (as far as others in the environment help fill that environment), and so forth.

    You'd want your pairings to accomplish something. This could be different for different pairs.

    Your main pairs could allow for some forms of conflict—like The Odd Couple—or some special kind of complementary features that make them depend on one another for some things. (One is great at magical studies but very poor when it comes to the mundane classes, and the other is opposite. For instance.) What does your story need? What will make the developments in your story even more interesting? Conflict, jealousy, fear, insecurity, bonds of loyalty, love between roommates, or....?

    You can consider all the secondary pairs through a similar prism. If you need an example of geekdom, then maybe one pair are both super geeky, get picked on a lot, but it turns out your main characters need a question answered or puzzle solved so they go to this pair for help. Or maybe some pairs were set according to social class, or other background, or whatever; perhaps even parents or faculty intervened to help them pair this way if it's not standard practice at the school for all pairs.

    As for the odd man or woman out...perhaps there's one student who must have a room alone. Maybe the roommate died in a magical accident, so they are now alone in a room. Or the student is so dangerous with magic while asleep, they are allowed to have a room to themselves. Again, what sort of scenario would add something interesting to your particular story?
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2021
  4. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    One option is to specifically choose who the main characters are paired with. This allows you to plan where the students might meet to discuss their plans, who might need to cover for their roommate, who needs to figure out a way to sneak out, etc. For the rest of the students I might do a random draw to avoid over thinking the pairings.
    If their are different magical disciplines the students may or mat not be placed in different dorms. Different dorms is typical of stories where the disciplines must compete against each other. Disciplines staying in the same dorm fosters the members of the various disciplines working together. I would decide how a student usually lives their life after leaving the school and let that determine the dorm arrangements. I also suggest deciding the size and layout of the school and grounds to determine the sleeping arrangements, classes, dining hall, training rooms, etc.
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    Since you've already made the 31 characters, then as an exercise, you could try a realistic scenario: start with random pairs, and then figure about four times people swap roomies. Sometimes being creative isn't about planning but about letting things get messy. Looking at random pairs might inspire an interesting dynamic that you wouldn't have seen otherwise, and thinking about who would swap lets you think about who can't stand each other, and who would seek each other out. And, y'know, you could do it a few times, pulling out the pairs you're happy with and randomizing and roomie-swapping the rest of them until it looks right to you.

    Also, it's easy to forget, but think about who of them likes to cook. The natural hosts/party throwers are a big part of a group like this.
  6. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    Why limit your dorms to two?

    If you have more in the room you can explore the relationships more intimately - including those antipathic to the sleuth group (or even potential suspects).

    As for the sexual tension - it depends on their ages. If they're young enough you can just ignore it. If they're pubescent the school will probably have rules. Then again, it might not and you can explore that too if you want.

    Personally, I love exploring relationship possibilities that do not feature in my real life.

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