1. A2theDre
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    A2theDre Active Member

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    Non-recurring characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by A2theDre, Jun 26, 2009.

    I've noticed in novels that I've read that characters that will not be recurring generally aren't named. This tends to lead to some predictability, where if a chance encounter with a new character happens to reveal that character's name, then you can pretty much rest assured that that character will pop up later on.

    Is this a general rule? Is this something that is expected to be done?

    I have an idea for the start of my novel, where I introduce a non-recurring character so that he can help portray my MC. I want the reader to view my MC with a sense of awe and... newness.

    Not sure if I conveyed my meaning across very well but I hope someone can shed some light on the issue.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's not a universal convention - far from it. There are entire novels in which a main character is never named (e.g. H. G. Wells' The Time Machine, in which the main character is referred to only as The Time Traveller), and there is an endless parade of walk-on roles in novels with clear identities. You may spend an opening with the (named) jogger who goes through his normal morning routine, but whose role in the story ends two pages later when he stumbles across a corpse dumped alongside his favorite running trail.

    If you think you see a predictable pattern, by all means break it. But you won't be the only one.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    You should be aware of the implications though, of opening with a character besides your MC.
    In The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway begins with a description of a minor character, outlining his life, education and relation to the MC, and it is not until the second chapter that we realise the book isn't really about him at all. Hemingway does this (largely) to subvert the notion of 'the hero' in literature, to challenge expectations about who the MC has to be and why (in fact, its thanks to Hemingway and other authors of his age that we no longer expect the MC of a novel to be someone exceptional, or even likeable/sympathetic).

    So yeah, opening with a minor/non-recurring character is fine, but you should know why you are doing it, what effect it will have on the MC, what effect it will have on the reader, and what conclusions it will bring readers to draw about the MC and the novel as a whole.
     
  4. A2theDre
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    A2theDre Active Member

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    Yes, arron89, that did cross my mind. It will probably be for only half the chapter or, at max, the whole first chapter. How I am imagining it written will clearly identify that the named minor character is not the MC. I just want a character that I can give an identity and meaning and reference to that will not come back into the story at all.

    Thanks guys.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Giving a character a name makes the character more "real." For my hypothetical jogger, it may help youidentify more with the sudden discovery of a fresh corpse. Even though you are done with the jogger at that point, some of that empathy carries over to the corpse. You care a little more about the person that used to inhabit that ruined shell.

    On the other hand, a name may merely make the reader pat a little more attention to a character whose purpose, though brief, is of some importance to the story.
     
  6. A2theDre
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    A2theDre Active Member

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    Which is exactly what I want to do. Thanks.
     
  7. Kirvee
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    Kirvee Contributing Member

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    It depends. If the character speaks or has a conversation with a main or secondary character, it's best to give the non-recurring character a simple name but not go into any further detail about the character. Give them a name, let them serve their purpose, and let them slowly fade out of the picture once their purpose is fulfilled.
     

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