1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Is it worth creating extra characters, just to bring plot points together?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ryan Elder, Aug 24, 2015.

    A lot of times when I ask readers, friend and other writers for advice when I get stuck on part of the plot, or how to bring multiple plot points together, a lot of times the advice given is to create a new character and a new subplot in order to connect the plot points of the main story.

    However, a lot of times I do not want to create a new character with his/her own subplot. I feel that it's not worth creating a new character if their only job is till fill a gap, so to speak. Sometimes I like doing it of it works well and that character is able to get his own theme or pay off out of it, but if there is no opportunity for that, and their job is till fill a gap only, is it really worth creating characters and more plot for that?

    Or is that just the way it has to be which is why many stories have multiple minor characters in because they are totally necessary?
     
  2. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    This is exactly what The Incredibles did with Edna Mode. She was how Helen found out about Bob's hero work, which led to Helen taking off for Nomanisan Island. However, she was introduced earlier, so she didn't feel like a pop-up, "Hi, I have answers!" character.
    She was also just awesome, too.
     
  3. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. But sometimes I feel that introducing them earlier may make it worse, and can make it all the more obvious that they do not add much to the story aside from gap filling.
     
  4. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    If the character is interesting and engaging, the reader won't notice.
    And it doesn't even have to be something as dramatic as Edna, swanning in to say your husband is moonlighting as a superhero. It can be the police lab tech phoning your detective with information as evidence is analyzed. It can be the gossipy ladies at the market mentioning something they don't know is important. and a paragraph or two, early on, and then again, every couple of chapters, is really all you need to make the character a natural part of the landscape.
     
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  5. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. So far I have three characters that fill gaps, and I was told I could use more to make the story easier but is there a limit as to how many I should go?
     
  6. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    At moments I can't help but imagine it like color.

    Imagine a movie was a painting. The colors a painter uses are like the tools you use.

    Adding more characters to connect plot, and as such is like a tool.

    If that tool is good, depens much more on when and where it is being used. I mean no one is going to say red is bad. Yet a painting about about the night sky should I assume have at least more blue than red. Thus adding red to that painting isn't what I would consider good.

    Sadly. Randomly adding characts can look forced. So I would be worrisome on that alone. Yet I would ask first.

    1. Why are the plot lines not meshing? Does adding a character help?

    If it turns out adding a character makes it flow better. Yeah do it! But remember the reverse could be true. What if the problem is that there is too much cluter? Clutter that is blocking more natural connections?

    2. Do I really need a new character? Could an existing character be reworked to make the connection?

    Since I assume this is about Tyler and stuff. I am going to make the assertion I think your problem is the reverse. That you have too much clutter and adding a character in your case is just going to rob focus and make it worse. But I am no master. Just my opinon.
     
  7. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    Adding characters to artificially spur plot developments is bad. Characters should logically seek help when necessary, but there should be no deliverance. The "Edna Mode" thing was not unbelievable because of the established backstory. Did not Bob seek her out to repair the tear and commission a new family of suits? It makes sense and does not strain credibility. Credibility is everything.

    There is a reason Lord of the Rings "call for the eagles" scene is a bad.. It is just a variant of deus ex machina. Avoid "easy answers" and you only get one "golden ticket" to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory per story.
     
  8. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Well often when I ask for advice the answer is to create another character. For example, in my current story, the MC blackmails an ex-con is who an expert in computer hacking, cause he needs him to hack someone's computer. Later after finding certain information in the computer, it leads him to another location where he has to break into a safe and an alarm is tripped. However, I need to figure out a way for him to be able to break into the safe. Other people's advice was for him to blackmail an ex-con who is good at cracking safes?

    But if the MC blackmails two criminals within about 10 pages, would the reader think it was too convenient or a deux ex machina? Is their anyway to get the MC to from point A to point B, without creating extra characters, if it's bad?
     
  9. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    A few things. This concept really is different I think than what I thought you meant in the opening topic.

    A safe cracker or a hacker don't really have to be characters. In a sense. I mean, yeah sure they are people but if they arrive and do one thing and leave. They are more like tools. I mean do you really count the hot dog salesman as a character in a cop movie? Or is he more a backdrop? Make sense?

    Now on to your actually issue. Well blackmailing two seperate people with seperate skills is well, it says things about your guy. For one he knows criminals. I mean I don't think your average cop keeps criminals phone numbers up to date for this reason. You know blackmail also implies that he has something on them. A few things you could do here. Mix it up for one. As in, maybe one criminal is a friend that he gave a free pass once upon a time. Or maybe he has the safe cracking skills.

    Yes the two people back to back. I do find troubling but for a different reason. Not because to many characters but because it makes me pause and think about it in the wrong way. Such as "Why does he have criminals ready to be blackmailed so easily?" OR "What is the point of watching him. He isn't doing anything. He keeps calling people to do stuff." OR "He is breaking the law in several ways pretty lightly here. Am I sure he is the hero?"
     
  10. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    Well, if you're doing a heist story, it isn't, really. A lot of those types of stories use a team of specialists.
    It might not be a great idea to use blackmail for both though. Bribery, trading favors, or maybe even the safecracker does it to stick it to someone.
    But, yeah, early introduction removes the out-of-nowhere quality.
     
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  11. james82
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    james82 Member

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    In my current horror script I introduced a minor character well into the second act, like page 70ish,
    who was described as the hitchhiker. This character was just a filler in order to show off something that
    the antagonist was capable of that we didn't know about up until that point. The hitchhiker gets killed
    in an extraordinary way, but it's not a worthless kill, her death and the way she dies specifically is actually
    a PLANT because it shows exactly how the antagonist will try to take out my MC in the finale of the third act.
    The antagonist will try to take her, my MC, out the same way. But by seeing this beforehand (it is a script) with the hitchhiker, that gives the reader a blueprint of that method used to kill which the antagonist will eventually attempt to use again against my MC so the reader will know what to expect, but my MC will not know what to expect so we'll be in a "superior position" over her.

    What I ended up doing was omitting the hitchhiker and I put my MC in the hitchhiker's place, a younger version of herself. My MC ends up having a vision of herself dieing in that extraordinary way that I'm referring to, so by the time she's faced with this same fate in reality by the end of the script, she's more prepared. The idea then becomes to just tweak the intended killing method some, to throw both us and her off a tad.

    This was one of the best moves I've made in this script because by putting my MC in the hitchhiker's place, a new theme even emerged. So when you ask is it worth introducing "new characters" to sustain or introduce new plot points, just think, you may not need a new character(s) and it could easily be your MC or another existing character all together! Think about that.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2015
  12. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I have asked more writers for opinions, and everytime there is a problem, they keep telling me to create new characters to fix it. Is their a limit as to how many gap filler characters should be allowed, even if they are minor and would just have one scene?

    Plus I am writing for a low budget screenplay that I want to direct and produce myself, so the more gap filler characters I add to it, the more money and actors I need. I have added quite a few now to fill gaps, and I feel that it's getting kind of ridiculous I feel. For example, one of my threads a while ago was on 5th amendment rights, because readers didn't buy a legal scenario, so I was told to write in a new character to come in and explain the scenario, just so the reader would understand it, thus being the characters only purpose. I feel that the gap filler characters are beginning to become too much.
     
  13. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    Specifically to Ryan Elder's case - creating one-off characters that serve only to advance the plot is bad. "Write in a new character" is typically fine when used as an absolute or logical necessity. If a criminal has been captured and is being hauled off to jail, typically you need to "write in a law enforcement character". The supporting cast is there to support, not to taxi the plot along until a conclusion.

    Not to nitpick, but if you had an issue arise with a legal scenario - why not use an existing and relevant character (outside the legal system) to ask the necessary question? You could even turn it into a whole song-and-dance scene if it is a musical. The whole "make a new character" thing sounds great until you realize that this is the 4th one and you have wasted an opportunity to make a character bond with the audience. Also making a new character for the task is a distraction and is a mental tax on the audience and your budgets.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2015
  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The trick is to make it all look natural.

    If your main character is being pursued by the antagonist through a busy shopping mall, you don't have to have introduced the policeman the MC turns to for help. The police will be patrolling the mall as part of their job. The policeman will be exactly where you'd expect him to be. Handy for the plot, but not a coincidence either. However, if your main character is being pursued by another character through a dense forest, and runs into a policeman, the policeman had better have a good reason for popping up just then.

    Nobody is going to have an issue with somebody who is exactly where you'd expect them to be—an olympic swimmer training in a large pool, or somebody walking their dog across a park, or somebody doing what their job normally entails. It's when things happen out of the ordinary that you have to set it all up carefully beforehand.

    If you can use 'normal' characters ...preferably unnamed ones ...doing normal things to facilitate a plot point, it helps to keep your plot decluttered and adds to overall believability. Too many coincidences will lead in the opposite direction.
     
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  15. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    My thoughts exactly. I'm not going to cry foul if your character is running for dear life across a forest and a trapper appears out of nowhere to save him/her from, say, a bloodthirsty outlaw. The person's a trapper, I would think this is where s/he'd normally be to trap wild game for food and pelt. He may be unnamed, may only be showing up for a bit to help the protagonist get rid of the killer clown and give him/her supplies, but he's supposed to be there so it'd make sense.

    As far as the Edna thing, she was introduced earlier and the movies made it clear she had a close relationship with all the superheroes (remember the "No capes!" speech where she ticked off the names of all the caped heroes who died over the years?) So when Helen (a superhero) came to her asking for her husbands whereabouts, it felt natural. It made logical sense that Edna would be the first person she'd go to, not some random woman we've never even met. Plus, it was made clear the Edna also mends superhero costumes so the whole 'Look at the new stuff I made!' scene didn't even feel like it came out of the blue and totally random.

    The basic gist of it is:

    - If you're going to have an 'extra' appear out of the blue, have them be in a place where it'd be logical otherwise you're going to have to come up with an explanation of why instead of a trapper, we have a rich person of the elite upper class wearing fancy clothing in the middle of the dense woods.

    - For named 'extras', make it clear how he/she relates to your main character. Let's say there's a bar fight between your protagonist and a drunken prospector. Protagonist is getting the shit clobbered out of him/her until their best friend, Fredrick the Bartender arrives and pistol whips the prospector with the butt end of a rifle. If it was made clear beforehand that Fredrick and your protagonist were at least good friends, something other than 'that guy who gives me beer at the end of the day', it wouldn't be too coincidental for Fredrick to jump in and play hero.

    Hell, even if you established that Fredrick is (a) a hunter and (b) won't tolerate violence in his bar, then regardless of whether or not he was friends with the protagonist, it'd make sense that he'd swoop in and establish order again. Point is, these 'extras' would have had an established reason of being there, and an established reason of why they suddenly are swooping in to aide the hero in any way they can.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2015
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  16. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. When creating an extra to help move the plot along, what if that character needed a special skill to help move the plot along without being forced. For example, for the story I am working now, I want a character to have certain ties to certain people. But I also want that character to be an expert computer hacker for when the time is needed. That character might also have to be an expert safe cracker for later on too. But the MC cannot have all these special qualities himself. He has to know people who can help him along the way. People who have these skills and connections. I can either create three characters, all having one of those qualities, each. Or I can create one character, with all three qualities. What's more natural? The MC knowing one person with many skills and connections he can get to help him? Or knowing three people, all who each have one quality? I am guessing that it's more likely the MC would know one special person that can help, rather than three, which is too easy, right?
     
  17. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your situation is a bit different than what I originally was thinking about. In real life we do happen upon people that influence us in some way and are forever out of the picture, so I see no wrong in introducing a new character if it really fits in to the story sort of like jannert and link the writer have mentioned.

    For your situation you might solve the problem by having the MC do some research and figure out how to crack the safe. In today's news here, a guy broke into a cellphone store through the A/C vents, drilled the hinges of a safe to remove the hinge pins and then was able to open the safe. He put the pins back in place and it didn't even appear that the safe had been tampered with. Obviously this thief knew what kind of safe he was breaking into and found a weakness to exploit, apparently he didn't know or care about the surveillance cameras however.

    I think finding three people to solve three different difficult problems is more likely than a "Jack of all trades, (master of none)", but I can see for a screenplay too many characters is an issue.
     

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