so for you, it seems that the characters were who they were and that stayed as it was. Connie didn't become a kinder, gentler person just to get along by going along. Angela didn't decide, "You know what? Tony's a nice guy; I'll go easy on him."
I had Alex say it: people can become a little less than what they are. The show (oh, great, now I'm doing it -- ever notice how they never really say what they're on while they're on it?) had claimed that it removes the layers of deception and exposes cores. Essences are supposed to come out on the islands. Maybe... but I think change on the personal level is one of the hardest things there is.
And Alex didn't lighten up at all. She was always completely dark.
She actually has a sense of humor, but it's slanted towards shadow. Alex is perfectly capable of recognizing when a situation is funny or absurd: she doesn't just doesn't do much with it.
And no one gets the one about the leprechaun and the penguin.
I tried to type-cast my characters like that, and I had almost no success. Rachel from my series was actually based on someone I saw on Jerry Springer by that same name; I made her louder and worse. The post-show transformation was an idea I had later. Steve was...I have no idea what his deal was; originally, I had him down as a nice, older brother-type figure who was friends with everyone rather than the divisive, clumsy jerk he ended up being. As for being a self-hating male feminist...well, part of that was playing up that stereotype and part of it was a reaction to what I see with a lot of guys who let women push them around, only taken much farther.
We've just got different writing styles. I needed to have a degree of immediate insight in part because only one person could do the looking. Since you worked through dialogue, your characters had to eventually say who they were or have other people give their impressions. (That actually gave you some flexibility, as other people can easily get it wrong.) It's kind of hard to have someone face the camera and say everything interesting about themselves in one confessional cut, so facets could come out at different times.
I also noticed this - you seemed to point out the characters' physical appearances. I deliberately avoided that, and I avoided talking about their lifestyles any more than the show dictated.
On Alex's end, that's because she's a visually-oriented person and is always going to note (if not judge) appearances. For the readership, I just wanted to get a mental image of each contestant going as soon as possible. Nothing excruciatingly detailed, but enough of an outline for everyone to fill in the brushwork. I could ask a hundred artists to draw a given contestant based on the story, and the three who responded would come up with different results -- but they'd have a few elements in common. (One of the reasons I'm considering taking this to Deviant Art: hey, let's see if anyone feels like giving it a try.)
Lifestyles outside the show were important. Everyone brings their life with them, whether they want to or not.
the characters I thought of were Charlie and Paula. They both went out of the game because of circumstances beyond their control, and both of them would kill for another chance. That All-Stars story I want to write for this summer? You better believe they're in it.
I'll alert the local riot squads. This could get really ugly...
Got a setting yet? Please don't say Panama.
Virtually everyone leaves the game due to circumstances beyond their control, but that's usually known as 'other people'. ;)
I also noticed that the loved ones seemed to get a bit of a storyline as well in your story, especially Audrey. Audrey and Edward could have gotten their own Survivor spin-off. For me, the loved ones were just more people who popped in and disappeared, although Maria's girlfriend seemed to have a lot more impact on the story (that was Billy's comeuppance for making Jason lose his concentration after the merge...basically, both Billy's enraging of Jason and Maria and Laura's kiss were unnecessary gestures that were designed to achieve an outcome that was already pretty close to certain. But, in both Billy's and Maria's defense, the actions they took felt really good, and they didn't know they didn't need them.)
It would be beneath Edward's dignity to be a full-time contestant on the show. (At the start, he's somewhat proud of Connie for having made it, but he doesn't really understand the initial decision to apply, much less go. Connie has her own dangerous streak of independence.)
Audrey, though -- ow. Audrey as a contestant would be a terror. She has all of Gardener's mental strength, plus ten percent: note that she's the agressor in that relationship. She matches him in intellect. And because she's physically tiny (while still capable), she could get overlooked through the early stages if she just manages to keep her mouth shut at crucial moments. Dismiss her as a serious threat while she's building alliances behind your back... gah. Audrey might reach mid-jury without anything approachign a real effort.
The other loved ones -- Shari was just a chance to show Gary as actual father instead of island one. David is a running joke about radio hosts (sound vs. look) and also demonstrates M-J's loving aspects. Lisa came along after her sister did: the thought of two extra Robins operating somewhere in the world was just too terrifying to pass up, and it also said something about Robin's need to distinguish herself in the public eye. (It would have also driven the sighting people nuts: suddenly she's here, there, and everywhere...) Andrea would be a fairly nerve-wracking contestant herself, but her brassiness could work against her early.
But, in both Billy's and Maria's defense, the actions they took felt really good, and they didn't know they didn't need them.
That's just too many contestants in the history of the game, right there. I'm just shocked Maria showed up for the Reunion wearing any clothing.
Incidentally, was there any reason you chose to have Gardener use his surname? I guess it might make a little more sense after all these nutballs from Cook Islands and Fiji used a bunch of nicknames, but so far, no one ever made that final push, even if there were duplicate first names.
Implies a barrier to intimacy and a lack of real knowledge about a person. When you get to address someone by their first name, it's offering a measure of equality on both ends: I know you, same the other way, so let's go with the granted ones. When you address someone by their last name, there's a degree of anonymity on their end, as well as a slight aura of superiority. Using the last name here kept a bit of Gardener out of sight early and left it there for a while, as well as saying he might not really consider himself part of a team in the end.
Also, there's just been too many Toms on this show.