October 23, 2018

Filed under: Knowledge

You Are a Storyteller: Clone Characters

Contrast brings clarity. Think about light and dark—you can’t see one without the other. If you have black letters on black paper, you’re not going to get your point across. The contrast makes your words legible. The same goes for your story. Characters need contrast, too. They need clones. A clone character is one that reflects or illuminates—whether through sameness or difference—your protagonist or your main character. For example, if you have a good character, you help define that character’s goodness by showing what bad looks like.

“Contrast allows us to see.” —Molly Bang, Picture This: How Pictures Work

Brian, in his blog Invisible Ink, explains the importance of contrast. In a story, he says this: “one element defines another: large and small, slow and fast, rich and poor. Each condition increases the other’s visibility. A giant cannot be a giant in a vacuum; he needs something to be bigger than, or he is no giant at all. In the same way, a story needs both light and dark if one is to tell it clearly and honestly.”

The Three Little Pigs is a great example of contrast and the use of clone characters. The Three Little Pigs is actually a story about one pig—the one who built a house of bricks. But you cannot understand the third pig without the first two pigs. (Contrast!) In other words, there is no story without the other two pigs. The story about the pig who built his house out of bricks isn’t very instructive. We need to know about the two pigs who didn’t take the time to build houses that would withstand the exploits of the cunning wolf. It’s in the contrast—the straw and the sticks and the Big Bad Wolf—where we learn the lesson (or the survival information): that hard work and dedication pay off.

“Clones characters illuminate something about your character—they show something about your character because of the sameness they have or the difference they have.” —Brian McDonald

On this week’s episode of You Are a Storyteller, Jesse and Brian discuss clones: what they are, why they’re important, and how to use them in your stories.