1. thinking
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    thinking Member

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    Necessary Character?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by thinking, Dec 26, 2009.

    Ok. Here's the deal. I have a character, and I can't decide if he's necessary or not.

    He's the father of the main character, abusive, drunk, and unhappy with his life. Basically, he takes it out on his wife and his seventeen-year old son (main character). He acts as something of a foil in the book.

    But that's the problem. His sole purpose is more or less to create conflict in the story. He's the reason his son wants to get out of town, is so unsatisfied with life, is angry, so on and so forth.

    I also worry that I can't write scenes with the father well. I've never had an abusive parent, so writing it into my novel is difficult. Plus, because of the subject matter, I want to make sure that it doesn't come off disingenuously. Lots of families across the world suffer with an abusive parent or spouse, so i don't want to screw it up or belittle the topic.

    I'm thinking I could just change the plot, and remove the father altogether. Then the mother would be a single parent trying to raise a large family in small-town USA. Most of the other stuff would fall into place, but:

    it also raises some questions, like, what's a single mom with a large-ish family DOING in rural New Hampshire? How is she supporting herself? There are also some critical scenes in the novel, when the main character's best friend knows not to just walk into the house because he hears the parents fighting. Also, it changes the dynamic of the family. Suddenly, the main character is a boy without a childhood instead of a boy with an unfortunate one. I feel like there is an element of middle-class suburban teenage ennui that i would be unable to capture if the boy is being raised by a single, struggling parent.

    Another option would be to simply tone down the personality of the father so that the family seems a bit more stable and my main character can still have a childhood. Still, I don't know the best way to do that. How do you tone that kind of character down, and by how much. I feel like this is the best option, but also the hardest.

    What do you guys think? How can you tell when a character is unnecessary? What would you do in this situation? I'm really in a bind here, so any advice would be great!
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is difficult for me (or possibly any poster here) to tell you what the best direction, and whether to include the character or not would be.

    Consider that one does not have to go into great amounts of detail as to the violent behavior. Direct references to it, painting a picture, but letting the reader fill in some of the blanks could work.

    Just as with horror, describing a gruesome scene or horrific creature, too much detail takes away rather than adds to the story and atmosphere. The reader will fill in the blanks with what aspects would be the most gruesome/scary, etc.

    You've discussed the problem with changing the reason for the son leaving, by removing the father, and the ripple effects it would have. Does that work for you? Will it change the direction of the story significantly, to a direction you prefer it not to take? How much rewriting will it take to alter the story? Is it worth it?

    Remember, characters should be in a story only if they have a purpose. Even if the father has one purpose, as described, it is a pivotal one. He is a tool to be used to tell the story, even if he is an ugly charactger/tool.

    Good luck with your writing.

    Terry
     
  3. thinking
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    thinking Member

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    fixed it!

    first of all, thanks for responding.

    I think I figured out what I'm gonna do.

    I decided the trauma was not necessary to the story and would have changed the characters in a way as to make them too distant from me to write about them well or honestly. I've decided to just change the father character from a violent drunk to merely an unhappy family man who pressures his son to succeed where the father feels the son has failed.

    Hopefully this will fix the story with minimal amounts of rewriting needed. I feel like it makes the most sense given the situation.

    At any rate, thank you for responding. I appreciate people taking the time to respond to my little dilemmas!
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not a problem. That's what we're here for, to support each other in our writing and/or publication efforts.

    Terry
     
  5. Cosmos
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    Cosmos Contributing Member

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    Although I see nothing wrong with writing outside your own personal knowledge zone (aka you're writing what you don't know) so long as you keep yourself educated about it, if you felt the story and your writing would do better with a different character, go with that. I also like the idea of a character who's not so traditionally bad, but still has problems that can cause a lot of grief for the kid. Not all abuse is physical and sometimes the emotional damage from a parent that's pressuring and not supportive can be extreme. I would be intrigued to read a story that went with that angle and to see how you develop it to make a powerful and believable read.
     

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