1. U.G. Ridley
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    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid Supporter

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    Cutting a main character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by U.G. Ridley, Aug 8, 2016.

    I just had what seemed like an existential crisis yesterday, as I lay awake in bed and pondered over my story. My story has gotten really long without me actually getting to one of the main plot elements, and so I was thinking of ways to shorten the first third of the book without losing any of the important details. I then realized that one of my main characters was literally completely pointless to the story. Literally didn't add anything to it at all. And yet I think I probably lay awake for like three hours just trying to come up with reasons why he shouldn't be cut, and the only reason I could find was that he was still a cool, well-written character. I think that's why it sucked so much to cut him, because I'd spent hours upon hours discovering who he was, finding his motivations, his past, his personality, and after all that I realized he was useless.

    Have you guys ever had to do this? Did it suck as much as it did for me, or did you have no problem with it? Have you ever finished a book and found out either from critics, readers or otherwise that one of your characters were pointless to your story?
     
  2. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I haven't, not on that scale. In rewrites, I've cut minor characters without even realizing it, but I'm sure that's not the same thing. This sounds like a mega-version of what Stephen King was talking about when he said: kill your darlings.
     
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  3. I.A. By the Barn
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    I.A. By the Barn A very lost time traveller Contributor

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    Yep, I've done it plenty of times, in fact I've just done it last night.
    I hate doing it because making characters is one if my favourite parts of writing, but sometimes it has to be done.
    Of course I can't let go completely and they are placed in the character graveyard until they are needed for anything else.
     
  4. U.G. Ridley
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    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid Supporter

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    Yea, I sort of wound up splitting the elements of the character into other ones, keeping some of the more powerful aspects of his character in the story. Still gonna miss the guy himself though. R.I.P Kevin Mayne, haha.
     
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  5. FireWater
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    FireWater Active Member

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    You can use him for another story. He could be resurrected into a world that will suit him much better.
     
  6. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You know how a lot of high school jocks protest math classes by saying "I'm never going to use this in real life," but how one teacher came up with the response, "If you refuse to lift weights because you will never need to lift weights in real life, then you won't be strong enough to lift anything you do need to lift in real life"?

    You haven't failed to come up with a character to use in a book, you've successfully practiced creating a character not to use.

    I came up with a rough outline for an entire series of murder mysteries with a supernatural twist as a teenager, but I have since decided that the story doesn't feel real to me because I can't theologically reconcile that specific supernatural aspect with what I understand about the real world. I've come up with other SciFi/Fantasy stories whose fantastic aspects don't have this problem - fantastic aspects that don't happen in the real world, but that still could happen in a slightly different version of the same world - but if I tried to salvage my previous story by creating a fantasy world from scratch with a completely different theology from what I believe about the real world, then the characters still wouldn't feel real to me because the point of the story was supposed to be about how real people treat each other in the real world (and how they would treat each other if one specific thing happened).

    But I still remember all of the work that I put into each of the characters, and everything I've done in my stories since has been better because I'd practiced with them first. I talk about my Doctor Who fanfic a lot on a MyersBriggs forum that I go to, and quite a few people have complimented the way that I developed my lead villain protagonist using the same tricks I originally practiced for my first idea.
     
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  7. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I did almost the exact same thing.

    In a series I was plotting, I realized that I'd never really given one of the ensemble cast anything to do or really explored his backstory at all, like the rest of the cast had gotten. I knew his story and he was a cool guy, but in plotting a finale I decided to kill him ... and suddenly realized that it wouldn't affect the story at all. I couldn't even make myself believe that the rest of the cast would miss him that much, because I'd never taken any steps to really endear them to him. I liked him, but he was just that unimportant.

    So some of his traits got divvied up among his friends (making them better characters!) and a simplified version of him became a side character, so the backstory I had wouldn't totally go to waste. He serves the overall plot a lot better like this, but it was a pretty weird conclusion to come to and I had to talk myself into it. I considered finding a way to make his role more important, but it's already a sizable cast - part of why I'd intended to kill him off was just to thin the herd a bit. I don't have any doubt that the story is better off this way instead. I'm sure it's the same for yours ;)
     
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  8. Sal Boxford
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    Sal Boxford Active Member

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    I have several groups of characters in a story I'm currently working on that I think might be pointless. This story lost a few individual characters back when I was just pondering it and, like @izzybot, I gave some of their characteristics/roles to other people. Now I've written quite a bit and am much more invested in these little tribes. I'm not sure I'll know for certain whether they are pointless until I've finished a first draft.
     
  9. Wolfmaster1234
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    Wolfmaster1234 Member

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    I've been quite drastic with the project I've been working on recently. I originally intended to have three MC's and wrote the first chapters for each. But I made the decision to cut it down to just one MC because I think it will suit the story more.
     

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