Literary analysis – why INTERESTING supporting characters are crucial
In any long-running story, whether it is in a book, on stage or on film, one of the most important aspects are the characters. Likeable, interesting characters are what keeps the reader coming back for more and without those qualities, success is less likely.
This most applies to the main characters of the narrative – we back Harry Potter due to his troubled life, Darren Shan thrust into a new existence as a half-vampire and likewise with Alex Rider as a spy. The conflict between Sam, Caine, Drake and the Gaiaphage in GONE helps drive that plot along.
Of course, every great story also has a supporting cast. After all, our protagonists and antagonists need people to talk to, or they would have lonely lives.
Some writers mainly develop their main character with a backstory and personal details while leaving the origins of everyone else quite vague. This is obviously their right to make that creative choice, but it shows, and what’s left is one multi-dimensional character and several names on a page.
GONE is an example of a series that utilises its supporting cast. Compared to most YA books, it has more of an ensemble feel by means of switching the point of view between multiple characters, while still having the clearly defined leads in Sam, Astrid, Caine and Diana.
Rather than following only a select few storylines, we get an insight into many residents of the FAYZ and how their experience, while in the same predicament as everyone else, differs personally for them.
To nail this point in, think of characters such as Drake, Albert, Edilio, Brianna, Dekka, Lana, Quinn and Computer Jack, to name just few, and how different GONE would have been with lessened versions of them.
A feature of the first three Saga of Darren Shan books, which I have been rereading recently, is that each story takes place in a different location – Darren’s hometown, the Cirque du Freak and Mr Crepsley’s home city. Since we are in three distinct places, there are alternative supporting characters in each novel.
As any fan of a long-running show or book knows, some people can grow frustrated with a character’s decisions once they’ve gotten used to them and seen them make the same decisions over and over again.
Darren’s family, human friends and teacher (Parents, Annie, Alan, Tommy and Mr Dalton) are, for the most part, unique to the first book, Sam Grest primarily appears in the second while third introduces Debbie and Murlough into the fray.
None of these characters are identical to one another and complement the character of Darren in different ways, which helps refresh the early stories.
Obviously I am not suggesting to spend too much time developing your supporting characters, they are not the focus of the series, after all.
Showing different facets and shades of their personality is no bad thing, as it only justifies the reason for that character to still feature in the story. Both of my examples, Michael Grant and Darren Shan, dabble in areas that some readers may find frightening.
I would not put it past either one to easily dispatch a character, permanently that is, who was not working.
What Happened to the Humans in Darren Shan’s Life?
Note: I have the 12 books in four large books as three trilogies. As such, I am unable to pinpoint which book is which and will just say ‘early books’ or ‘late books’.
In The Saga of Darren Shan, we see the title character leave his human life behind and become a half-vampire quite early on. As we only get a fleeting glimpse into Darren’s human life, this is the end of the road for many characters in this portion of the story, due to their storyline having ended.
We all know what happened to Steve Leonard/Leonard, but what about the other family, friends and acquaintances in Darren’s life?
Below is the list of everyone that Darren left behind upon becoming Mr Crepsley’s assistant.
DERMOT & ANGELA SHAN – HIS PARENTS
In the short time we spend with this couple, we learn a few things about them. Dermot has large feet and multiple pen pals and Angela is a keen stamp collector.
They were obviously devestated by their son’s ‘death’ and eventually moved out of the family home where they had lived, a few years prior to Darren returning to it. Dermot also suffered a mild attack.
Although they do not appear after the early stories, expository dialogue from a neighbour named Bridget informs us of their ultimate fates.
Annie shan – his sister
Appearing as a young girl in the early books, Annie is one of the few people aware that Darren went to the Cirque du Freak and kept this secret from their parents. Likewise, she was aware of Madam Octa and how Steve actually got a poisoned bite.
Eight years after Darren’s ‘death’, Annie fell pregnant by Steve Leonard, Darren’s best friend who did not love her, simply being manipulative.
By her return appearance in the later books, she has a son – Darius – who was blooded by his father Steve as a half-vampaneze. Darren later re-bloods him as a half-vampire and they make the trek to Vampire Mountain.
TOMMY JONES – HIS FRIEND
Tommy Jones was the star goalkeeper of Darren’s school and one of his closest friends, alongside Steve Leonard and Alan Morris. Tommy primarily featured early on, competing for a ticket in order to attend the Cirque du Freak although he was unsuccessful.
Seemingly a minor, inconsequential character, Tommy made an appearance when Darren returned to his hometown in the later books, as a now famous goalkeeper returning for a football game.
Although he doesn’t tell him the full story, Tommy mentions some tidbits about Steve and Annie that help Darren later on.
He and Darren made plans to properly reunite, but this never came to pass, as he was murdered by Steve’s psychotic vampaneze henchmen R.V. and Morgan James.
ALAN MORRIS – His friend
Alan was the fourth member in Darren’s group of friends. He is responsible for setting the events of the series in motion, by bringing a flyer for the Cirque du Freak into school.
He later becomes a famous, leading scientist of the country where he lives (it is never specified) and helped create the first dragon. This is all mentioned through other characters’ dialogue.
MR DALTON – HIS TEACHER
Mr Dalton was Darren’s teacher and he served a very specific use during his time in the story. Remember, despite the sophisticated storytelling and plots, these books were technically for children and most probably would not know what a ‘freak show’ was.
Thus, it fell to Mr Dalton to explain to Darren, his classmates and indeed the audience about how cruel the shows really were and why one being active would be such a rare and unusual thing.
We also get an insight into his well-intentioned personality, as he tries to get the Cirque du Freak shut down, likely out of concern for the ‘freaks’ ‘ safety.
Years later, when Darren covertly observes his old school, he sees Mr Dalton still working there, as popular as ever.
ASOUE – Who Is The Real Lemony Snicket?
A Series of Unfortunate Events, the novels on which a film and a Netflix Original series were based, was written by an author using the pseudonym ‘Lemony Snicket’.
Perhaps confusingly to some, the stories also feature a character by the same name, portrayed in the 2004 film by Jude Law and in the Netflix series by Patrick Warburton, in two very different interpretations.
The question remains, however – Who is the real Lemony Snicket? The author, the man behind the mask, so to speak and the sole person responsible for the Baudelaire orphans’ misery…
Well, let me tell you.
The author’s real name is Daniel Handler, a California native who is also a musician. He wrote under the Lemony name for seven years while writing the ASOUE novels, while he has published six books under his real name.
Despite being children’s novels, there are very dark themes including attempted murder, abduction and death by incineration.
Between 2012 and 2015, Handler returned to the Lemony Snicket pen name to publish the four-part prequel series All The Wrong Questions.
Handler wrote for the Netflix series based on his books, including part of the opening song. As seen above, he made a cameo appearance in the episode “The Wide Window: Part One,”
Skulduggery Pleasant: Who Is Derek Landy? How and When Did The Series Start?
Skulduggery Pleasant is a series of, to date, 12 fantasy novels written by Irish novelist Derek Landy.
The first book, published in 2007 was also titled Skulduggery Pleasant and effectively built the world that has become familiar in the many sequels. We also met many of the key characters, such as our title character and his partner, then 12-year-old Stephanie Edgley, who becomes sorcerer Valkyrie Cain.
Derek Landy, a Dublin native and black belt in Kenpo Karate, is the writer behind all twelve books. The famous story is that while in London for a meeting regarding a screenplay, which he also dabbled in, the name Skulduggery Pleasant appeared in his mind. The kind of epiphany the all writers hope for.
A common misconception is that the character of Gordon Edgley, an author of fantasy books, is based upon Landy.
However, this is not the case. It was later revealed that Saracen Rue, a member of the Dead Men, is Landy’s representation in the books, allowing the character to know things that others do not.
Who Were The Major Deaths In Deathly Hallows And Why Did They Die?
Although there were many sad and shocking deaths throughout the Harry Potter series, arguably the highest body count comes in the final book/movies – The Deathly Hallows.
This post is relevant to both the novel and film series, as some deaths occurred in one and not the other.
I will be analysing the unlucky characters and JK Rowling’s possible mindset in deciding to kill them off.
Although we only see Colin (played by Hugh Mitchell) in the Chamber of Secrets film, he was a recurring character in the books as a member of Dumbledore’s Army.
The character Nigel (William Melling) serves as a composite for both Colin and his brother Dennis and we do not see him die on-screen.
My best guess is that Rowling killed Colin to highlight the tragedies of war.
Remember, he was underage and snuck back, only to be murdered. It’s a harsh reality within this fictitious magical world.
Alastor ‘mad-eye’ moody
Irish actor Brendan Gleeson appears as Mad-Eye in three Harry Potter films though sadly, the character dies in both iterations of the story.
The chapter title in which Moody’s death occurs is ‘The Fallen Warrior’. I believe he was killed early on in Deathly Hallows, with this title, to show that no one was safe.
Mad-Eye was easily the most competent, proficient fighter out of the core Order members and once Rowling removed him from the equation, it created an idea of hopelessness among the characters and readers.
If Mad-Eye was gone, how would anyone else make it?
Harry’s beloved pet owl was killed to represent a loss of innocence – besides Ron and Hermione, Hedwig was another constant companion throughout Harry’s time at Hogwarts.
Since Harry did not return to the school in either the book or film, it was a definite, shocking way to indicate that this chapter in his life was over.
Once Harry had saved Wormtail’s life in Prisoner of Azkaban, the latter owed a life debt to our hero.
Upon being reminded of this fact upon meeting again in Deathly Hallows, Wormtail’s silver hand interpreted his hesitation as weakness or mercy and subsequently killed its master instead.
So, basically, Wormtail was killed because his story had ended and there was no reason for him to survive.
Ron’s former girlfriend is not definitively killed off in the books – she is mentioned as ‘stirring’ with the possibility of a recovery.
In the films, she is mauled by Greyback and already dead by the time our heroes find her.
From the film perspective, Lavender was killed to give Hermione a moment in the scene where she attempts to save her former dorm-mate, not realising that Lavender was already gone. This counteracts their relationship in Half Blood Prince, where they had been feuding over Ron.
Dobby shares some similarities with others on this list. Like Colin Creevey, he originally solely appeared in the Chamber of Secrets film despite continuing to have a role in the books, though he returned for Deathly Hallows.
Like Hedwig, Dobby was killed to signal the end of Harry’s childhood. They had met when Harry was 11-12 years old and now, all those years later, Dobby died in his arms.
He also died while fighting his former masters and saving his friends, making the house elf a posthumous hero.
remus lupin & nymphadora tonks
Lupin and Tonks’ son, Teddy, is Harry Potter’s godson.
Much like the loss that Harry experienced with his own parents before the series even began, their deaths occurred to create a full circle – another infant boy has lost his parents in a Wizarding War.
Bellatrix was killed by Molly Weasley, in order for Rowling to show that the Weasley matriarch was more than just a housewife whose main focus was on cooking, cleaning and rearing the children.
She was a powerful witch in her own right, even if she didn’t always get the chance to show it.
Harry Potter is what’s called a ‘Hero’s Journey’ which basically means that the Hero of the story (Harry) has to overcome a set of challenging obstacles and experiences in order to defeat the villain – Voldemort, in this case.
In order for the story to come to its natural conclusion, You Know Who had to be defeated.
Snape’s great love, Lily Potter (Evans), had died while protecting her greatest love – only child and son, Harry.
For the six years they were together at Hogwarts, Snape protected Harry out of his love for Lily – though not overtly, considering he was also a spy in the Death Eaters.
Once Snape had fulfilled his final purpose – giving Harry the memory that filled in all the blanks, for story reasons, he had to die.
There was nothing else for him. People believed he was a traitor and murderer and if Voldemort’s side won without the Dark Lord murdering Snape, he would have died soon after anyway due to the misunderstanding with the Elder Wand.
Why It Made Complete Sense That Harkat Mulds Was *SPOILER*
Throughout Harkat Mulds’ time in the Saga of Darren Shan, he was a man… creature, shrouded in mystery. His evolution from mute side character to important player in the overall story was surprising to say the least.
SPOILERS BELOW IF YOU HAVE NOT READ ALL THE BOOKS
In the 10th book, The Lake of Souls, Harkat’s past identity is revealed to be traitorous vampire Kura Smahlt, who was executed in The Vampire Prince, the sixth book of the Saga.
Of course, this is shocking information, both to Harkat and Darren as well as the readers. Harkat and Kurda were not at all similar, which would make this twist impossible to guess (unless you paid close attention to their names), yet, it also makes complete sense.
Let’s go through it.
1 – KURDA WAS A VAMPIRE
While he ended up being a traitor that nearly destroyed the clan, Kurda was still a vampire at the end of the day.
Since Mr. Tiny needed to pick someone to be Darren’s Little Person protector, it would make sense for that person to be a Vampire, since that is who Darren would be spending much of his time around.
This person would also be spending much of their time as Harkat in Vampire Mountain, a place which Kurda was also very familiar with and considered home.
2 – HE CARED ABOUT DARREN IN HIS ORIGINAL LIFE
Much like Mr. Tiny said after Kurda’s soul was pulled out of the Lake, part of the reason he was chosen to become Harkat was his connection to Darren.
Remember, Kurda wanted to keep Darren alive after already killing Gavner, who he’d known longer, showing that he cared for the boy.
This would mean that he’d try harder to protect Darren from death than someone who had barely known him or was a complete stranger.
Harkat’s emotional tie to Darren and feeling that he should stay with him implies that he may have some of Kurda’s surface feelings and emotions, without fully remembering who he once was.
3 – HE NEEDED TO BE REDEEMED
Quite possibly, a lot of people may have thought that it would have been easier if someone like Mr. Crepsley or Gavner Purl had been chosen to become Harkat. After all, they were competent vampires who cared about Darren, right?
Kurda was plucked out of the Lake because he was not in Paradise – he had committed wrongs in his life. Although his intentions were not malicious, his actions were and this led to his execution.
Becoming Harkat Mulds and by virtue of that, protector of the individual prophesied to defeat the Vampaneze Lord, is enough to redeem Kurda’ actions in his first life and allow his soul to move on to Paradise.
At least for Darren and Harkat, he can be remembered as somewhat of a hero.
Why TEENAGERS IN DISTRESS MAKES GREAT YA FICTION
Much like the target audience, the primary characters in many of the popular Young Adult novels in recent years are under the age of 18.
Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Alex Rider, Darren Shan, GONE, CHERUB, The Enemy. Those are just the ones that immediately come to mind.
There are several reasons why the first paragraph is accurate. The first is very real-world and boring in that it’s good marketing. No teenager wants to read about a depressed accountant in their mid-30s with an unhappy marriage and crippling debt, to use an example.
At the very least, not as the protagonist.
Part of the thrill of these books is that the characters are seeing, doing and experiencing things that the reader, can never have themselves. Being wizards, spies, vampires, fighting zombies. The stories are much more relatable when the central figures are as similar to the reader as possible.
Furthermore, as much as kids hate to admit it, adults are older and wiser than they are. Some of the situations that our young literary heroes find themselves in could easily be avoided by a mature, world-weary adult.
Don’t investigate the dangerous area by yourself or get friendly with someone you know could be a vampire. In Alex Rider or CHERUB’s case, know when to back out of a mission before its unsafe.
Authors rely on kids’ recklessness and immaturity to drive their plots forward and have it still be believable. Harry Potter venturing into the mysterious Forbidden Forest is the act of a rebellious teen.
If the title character of Darren Shan was a grown man living alone that had to leave home, the impact would be lessened. If Alex Rider lost his parents and uncle as an adult, rather than a 14-year-old.
Imagine GONE where all the parents were trapped instead of 14 and under. Very different story.
If you’re 18 or younger and reading this, I’d recommend giving any of those books a try.
It’ll be a fun time.
CIRQUE DU FREAK – FAN CAST
With the recent activity in getting a better adaptation of Cirque du Freak made (which I may have been indirectly partially involved in starting), I decided to think about who would be in this new version once the beloved books were brought to screen.
This is my first time ‘fan-casting’. Not that I was ever against it, I just found the concept a bit unrealistic. As it is my first time, there are only three actors/characters featured. I am open to suggestions for more to include.
Here goes nothing…
NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU – LARTEN CREPSLEY
Remember what I was saying earlier about being unrealistic? Coster-Waldau has just finished a major television adaptation based on novels.
Here are my reasons for this choice.
Firstly, I would guess from Larten’s name alone that he is either Eastern European or Scandinavian. Coster-Waldau is Danish who is able to do general accents to indicate world travel.
As we have seen in Game of Thrones, Coster-Waldau is capable of having compassionate on-screen relationships and adds layers of complexity to the characters he plays, even if they seem one note at first.
He has been in many, many on-screen fights, battles and scrapes. He even lost a hand on Game of Thrones. Seeing him with a scar on his face would not be too much of a stretch.
iAN mCkELLEN – PARIS SKYLE
Who better to lead the Vampire Clan than Gandalf? I mean, Ian McKellen.
McKellen famously passed on the role of Albus Dumbledore because he did not want to play another wise, mentor wizard after Gandalf. He never said anything about vampires, did he?
The actor playing Paris needs to have the same level of respect and longevity as the character and based on his previous work, McKellen would be my choice, if it were up to me.
A small detail from the books is that Paris was a friend of Shakespeare. Ian McKellen is a prolific Shakespeare performer on stage having played King Lear over 300 times.
CHARLES DANCE – SEBA NILE
I thought of this one while actually writing this post and it intrigued me enough to include it.
Dance of course worked with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on Game of Thrones so there’s a built in relationship already. From father and son to surrogate father and son is not a huge leap.
Additionally, Dance is only slightly younger than Ian McKellen, much like Seba is to Paris.
He played a wise mentor in 2011’s Neverland.
Similarly to Paris, as Seba is an old, respected vampire, an actor with the same level of respect and experience would work really well.
REFLECTION: VAMPIRATES (JUSTIN SOMPER)
Vampirates are a series of novels written by Justin Somper, an English author.
Ingeniously, Somper combines two of the most written about versions of people in fiction, vampires and pirates — Vampirates. Now you get it!
The start of the whole series, in a weird and funny way, is a metaphor for how life can take unexpected turns. Two siblings — Connor and Grace, separated at sea are rescued by two crews of pirates who could not be more different.
Connor gets rescued by a crew that you’ve seen the likes of before, but Grace’s crew are Vampirates – vampires who are also pirates. Although in such contrasting circumstances, the storyline slowly merges as the overarching narrative moves along.
I really enjoyed the series when I read the books many years ago though I must admit it was confusing at times. This was my fault, as the library loaned some out to me in the wrong order, which led to obvious cluelessness.
Like any good series, the story takes twists and turns along the way. Things are not as they seem nor are they same from the first book to the last. If they were, that would mean there was no character development or evolution.
Memorable supporting characters also helped the series stay afloat…pun intended. They also helped make the readers lust for more… did it again. Seriously, Lorcan, Bart, Jez, Molucco, just some examples.
WHEN WOULD/Should A ‘GONE’ SERIES TAKE PLACE?
An adaptation of Michael Grant’s Gone series of books – dark, dystopian thrillers reminiscent of LOST and Lord of the Flies – has been ruminating for some time.
The original book, titled Gone, was released over a decade ago, in 2008. That begs the question – when would this adaptation take place?
Of course, once the FAYZ wall comes into play, it won’t particularly matter too much. The kids will be in exactly the same position as in the novels, presumably set in 2008. I am interested in those brief snippets before – the build-up, if you will.
Naturally, the world has evolved significantly over the past 11 years. If you were to make an adaptation set in both 2008 and present day, the opening sequences would be entirely different.
Remember also that the Internet worked for sometime in the FAYZ. In Hunger, the second book, Astrid uses it to research the ‘zekes’ after the tragedy at the beginning of the novel. If the series is set in present day, then they would have access to social media for a little while, which would only complicate the story.
Overall, I think sticking to the time frame of the books is probably for the best. 14-year-olds of 2008 and present day teenagers are very different kinds of people, despite ’08 being relatively recent.
The world is much more image obsessed thanks to sharing pictures online, which the characters were not burdened with in the books.
WHEN WAS CIRQUE DU FREAK SET?
Cirque du Freak/The Saga of Darren Shan was already incredibly vague. It is never confirmed where the series takes place (or at least starts off, to give a hint to Darren’s nationality) and in the very first chapter, the narrator (aka Darren) revealed he changed his and his family’s names in order to protect them.
Now, take into account that as well as this, there is another piece of information that we do not know – when the series actually took place. When you think about it, we are oblivious to the where, when and to some extent, who.
We do have one lead, however. Back in July, an incredibly insightful and observant member of the Shandom (hint, hint) posted this Tweet.
Now, although it is common knowledge that Darren the author and fictional Darren are two different people with contrasting backstories, let’s assume that real Darren used his own details when deciding what year the story would take place.
My calculations would be thus: Assuming from the writing in the first books that fictional Darren is relatively young, possibly only just a teenager, this would place the year at roughly 1985. It is clear from the writing that although Darren is not a primary school aged child, he is most definitely under 18.
Unfortunately, the only problem with this theory is that it clashes with one of the few pop culture references made in the whole series, which is shown in the Tweet below. For further context, this is Darren’s reply to the first Tweet.
The Simpsons premiered in 1989, meaning that the story has to take place in the 90s or after. This would work under my initial assumption when reading – the books are obviously set when they written, the mid 2000s.
This correlates with the Simpsons reference, our only real clue, which does not refer to the show as being new or obscure.
Darren the author was vague enough that this story could plausibly take place anywhere from the early 1990s to the early-mid 2000s. Of course, if the technology of the time was mentioned in more detail, that would be more of a clue but alas, it is not available to us. Also, as we do not have a confirmed birthdate for fictional Darren, this makes it harder to pinpoint based on year.
Those are my thoughts. Hopefully it was an enjoyable read.
When do you think the series was set?
REVIEW – THE WORD IS MURDER
Written by: Anthony Horowitz
Characters: Daniel Hawthorne, Anthony Horowitz, Diana Cowper and many others
The Word is Murder is yet another brilliant Anthony Horowitz foray into the murder mystery genre.
Following on from “Magpie Murders” which was two mysteries in one, this is also an unusual novel in that sense that Horowitz himself, or a slightly fictionalised version of him, appears as sidekick of Daniel Hawthorne, the main character.
It is a unique literary device and made the novel an even more interesting read, separating it from the repetitive nature that these books tend to have. The innovative twist in the structure made The Word is Murder an engrossing and compelling read that I did not want to put down.
One of Horowitz’s great strengths as a writer is his ability to create well-drawn characters. Look to any of his work – Alex Rider, Magpie Murders, Power of Five – for countless examples of this. After reading this book, Hawthorne is one of my favourite Horowitz characters. Not because he has a lot of likeability, he does not, his flaws make him interesting to read (and probably also write) about.
Unlike most novels in this genre, the lines between fiction and reality are blurred. Some of the people in the story, by virtue of being associated with Horowitz, are real while others are inventions from Horowitz’s own mind. Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are an example of real-life ‘cameos’.
Like any good mystery novel, subtle clues are left along the way as to the identity of the killer, which are glaringly obvious when looking back after it has been revealed ‘whodunnit’.
In this case, I registered some details as being unusual but did not join the dots together, which meant I was surprised by the outcome.
Anyone looking for a good read and full-on suspense, take a look at the Word is Murder.
Why the ‘gone’ characters were not stereotypes
Michael Grant’s six-part Gone series began in 2008 and concluded in 2013, spanning the original story of the FAYZ and Perdido Beach. The majority of the characters featured in these novels were children and youn adults — people under the age of 18.
However, they are unlike any other youths you may have come across in literature. Even Elementary school-aged kids were handling alcohol, guns and knives for protection. That is just the surface observation.
When looking at the characters as people, what makes them tick, they are just that. People. Not a bunch of characters on a page who all sound the same, but distinctly separate individuals with their own personalities and goals.
To dig even further, some of the characters even defy social norms. All of the main female characters – Astrid, Diana, Lana, Dekka, Brianna and even Taylor, all of them are as ready and willing to contribute in dangerous situations as their male counterparts. Even in 2019, the 21st century, people still have inferior views that women are inferior to men. Coming from a man, I can say that GONE helps to show this is not the case.
All the way back in the first book and sometimes throughout the rest of the series, Edilio Escobar is ridiculed by others for his status as an implied legal immigrant, a “wetback”. This is mostly from Quinn Gaither in GONE, the first novel, due his jealousy of Edilio’s growing friendship with Quinn’s best friend, Sam.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, Edllio is the one who remains loyal to Sam consistently while Quinn has a brief time where he defects to Caine, the opposition.
Even the two central figures, Sam and Caine, avoid tropes of their respective roles in YA literature as the ‘hero’ and ‘villain’. Both are flawed young men doing what they believe to be right. Although Caine has definitely been cruel on some occasions, he is not as far gone as Drake Merwin.
All the characters are extremely well-written and I could keep going on and on. Another time, perhaps.
Hope you enjoyed this post and see you on the next one.
How to make a better adaptation of cirque du freak
As any member of “Shanville” — Darren Shan’s fanbase — would know, a feature film version of Cirque du Freak was released in 2009. It starred some pretty big names such as John C. Reilly, Willem Dafoe and Salma Hayek. Unfortunately, it was quite disappointing. Some of the roles were horribly miscast and the screenplay was nowhere near the quality of the books we all know and love.
1 – The location
In the film, the story took place in the USA. While the location of where Darren was initially from was never specified in the books, USA did not feel right to me. If am not mistaken, ‘pounds’ were referenced as currency in the novels.
Darren’s love of football (yes, football, not soccer) becomes suddenly less relevant. Considering a scene in the books had him playing the sport right after he got blooded, it seems a shame to lose this aspect of the character.
2 – THE CHARACTERS
Like I said before, some of the characters were miscast, in my opinion.
The actor who played Darren, Chris Massoglia, was not very experienced and ultimately not strong enough to lead a major feature film. His performance was not memorable and as Variety put it, Darren had the “bland, gumdrop charm of your average Nickelodeon character.”
Conversely, Josh Hutcherson, who played Steve, had been in a string of hits before doing this film. Zathura, Bridge to Terebithia and Firehouse Dog were among his many credits. By and large, most of his characters had been quite likeable, so seeing him as Steve, who is the villain by the end of this film, was a bit jarring and not very believable.
I understand wanting some diversity on your CV, but I feel Hutcherson tried too hard in this performance and it came off as forced.
John C. Reilly, on the other hand, made a great Mr. Crepsley, so thumbs up there. I remember hearing at the time that he had read all the books in preparation for the film, became a fan of the character and was disappointed at how unfaithfully the book was adapted.
Some of the details surrounding the characters also did not make much sense to me. For example, Darren and Steve are 16 in the film. That to me feels a little too old considering the experiences in the book – the fact they were younger (I believe around 12 or so) and sneaking out to this mysterious freak show added to the drama. Doing it two years away from adulthood takes away that feeling.
3 – CONDENSING MULTIPLE NOVELS INTO ONE FILM
Since this is Hollywood, multiple details from the books were changed around and/or became plot points earlier. This includes Harkat being named and vicious, a new love interest named Rebecca, Steve becoming a half-vampeneze years earlier than originally and Murlough, not only arriving earlier but also becoming a Little Person.
While this was probably done as insurance in case there was no second film (which there wasn’t), it is very annoying for fans of the books to see the stories transformed so horribly.
4 – WHAT I WOULD DO
If I were the person in charge of adapting these novels, here’s what I would do.
1 – Cast younger actors
I would have Darren and Steve be around 12-13, closer to their age in the novels. Ideally, this pair would also have some decent acting experience under their belts and be mature enough for the roles.
At the very least, slightly older actors who could play that age.
2 – SET IT IN EUROPE
Author Darren O’Shaughnessy (Shan) is an English-born Irishman and I firmly believe these stories, at least at the beginning, are set in one of those two countries.
Possibly, the Game of Thrones method could be employed where it is vague about where exactly the action is taking place but have people with English and Irish accents.
3 – TV instead of film
Television as a medium has evolved significantly since 2009, when the film was released. A Netflix miniseries in the style of A Series of Unfortunate Events would be cool to see.
4 – CAST BIG NAMES FOR THE ‘ADULT’ ROLES
Like I said, John C. Reilly made a fantastic Mr. Crepsley. However, he is now 10 years older and may be uninterested in playing the role again. The point of a show/film is for as many people to watch as possible and this could be a way to do it.
CIRQUE du FREAK – STEVE LEOPARD/LEONARD Analysis
Steve “Leopard” Leonard is the main antagonist in Darren (O’Shaugnessy) Shan’s vampire novels, The Saga of Darren Shan. He goes through one of the most significant changes of any character throughout the entire series and I am curious as to why that is.
No, I am not being obtuse. I have read the books and know the story, but was there another underlying reason as to why Steve was so quick to believe Darren? His best friend, would betray, plot against and even try to kill him with such ease. It simply does not make any sense, from a logical point of view.
Of course, one could argue that Desmond Tiny’s interference is what turned Steve against Darren and they would probably be right. However, I am theorising that Steve may have resented Darren even before vampires and the Cirque du Freak came into their lives.
Let’s look at the facts. Steve came from a broken home, single mother and no father in the picture. He was described as a ‘wild child’ who regularly got into trouble and into fights. If that isn’t a cry for attention, I don’t know what is.
Then you have Darren, his best friend. Loving family, both parents. Notice that Darren is much more reliable and obedient to the rules than his friend. Although not completely since he did sneak out without telling his parents as well as steal a spider. Is it possible that Steve was jealous of Darren’s home life? Absolutely, I have even heard of similar instances in real life.
Maybe Steve did not even consciously recognise what he was feeling. After all, he never vocalised any resentment or ill-will to Darren before they went to the Cirque.
Looking at it this way, when Darren was the one to become Mr. Crepsley’s assistant — a half-vampire — Steve may have seen it as yet another thing that Darren got to have and he did not. After all, from Darren’s perspective, you would expect your best friend would at least let you explain what happened instead of refusing to listening and declaring hatred for life. Steve’s anger being more of a tip of the iceberg, as it were, makes the whole scenario that played out feel more natural.
Regardless of what Steve’s motivation was for not believing his friend, Darren Shan the author did a great job of writing the conflict between the two former allies. Once Steve’s deception is revealed upon his return to the series, we see how deeply Darren’s ‘betrayal’ affected him and lead to the man/vampaneze he became.