1. Sapphire at Dawn
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    Sapphire at Dawn Member

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    Potentially Redundant Character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Sapphire at Dawn, May 27, 2016.

    In the novel I'm working on, I'm rapidly discovering that one of my characters doesn't really have a point for most of the novel. She has an important part to play just not until nearing the end. I'm pretty stumped with what to do with her until then. She's not involved with the two main points of the story (first of which is a romance and the second which is the planning and eventual execution of a small uprising). I've hit a big wall with what to do with her as she needs to be good friends with my MC for her role to be executed. Does anyone have any suggestions how I could combat this?
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, that's a tricky one. I had a similar problem in my own novel.

    When do you introduce this character to your story? Right at the start?
     
  3. Sapphire at Dawn
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    Sapphire at Dawn Member

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    I'm in the planning stages, so it can potentially be at any time. I was going to have them meet in the beginning to give time for the friendship to develop, but she can come in at any time, really. They just have to be good friends for her to fulfil the role I need. The trouble is that the plot leans more towards the romance and the uprising, which she can't really be a part of, again to fulfil her later role. It's very frustrating because I keep coming across stumbling blocks in this thing!
     
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  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Could she be geographically separated from your MC during the romance and uprising? That way we don't see her on the page but your MC can think "I wish X was here to share this with" and write her letters/call her (depending on the time) and reference her when talking to other characters. If you pepper pot references to her throughout the story, she'll feel like an established character when she eventually shows up near the end. And by showing that your MC misses her, we'll miss her too and be pleased when she arrives.
     
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  5. Sapphire at Dawn
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    Sapphire at Dawn Member

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    Afraid I can't. The MC moves to the village where the problem character lives so they don't know each other before this. In my head, I was going to have her be the one showing the MC around the village and sort of helping her get to grips with life there. However, the more I plan, the more I'm realising that the MC does this in other ways that are more related to the main plots.

    Thanks for taking the time to answer by the way, hopefully things will sort themselves out the more I have to think about them!
     
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  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. I'm totally with @Tenderiser on this. If you can introduce your minor character strongly (as childhood friends or young adult friends) at the start of the book, you're on your way. There is an unspoken convention that characters who play a strong role at the start of the book won't just be 'forgotten.' The reader expects this person to appear later on in the book. If they don't, they will be remembered as a dangling loose end that was never tied up.

    It helps, as @Tenderiser suggests, if you have the character mentioned every so often afterwards. Where is she now? I wonder what her life is doing now? - kind of thing. Or somebody can mention they've seen her, if that's appropriate. Or have some present events or other people remind your main character of her old friend, etc.

    It's possible to trick the readers into thinking she will meet up with her old friend again....under very different circumstances. In other words, if the main character longs to go home, to see her friend again—a friend whom she left behind, happily married with two children and a good job. And then actually discovers this friend later on, in the middle of some battlefield that's far from home, or something like that. In other words, misdirect the reader's attention. A shakeup of expectation like that will provide a very satisfying twist, but won't make the reader feel cheated. Of course you'll need to conjure up a good reason for why the friend isn't where she was 'supposed' to be, but that's easy enough done. It can even deepen the meaning in the overall plot. (For example, perhaps the main character left home to join a rebellion, while her friend stayed behind, apparently supporting the other side. And it turns out the friend actually was always sympathetic to the rebellion. In fact she was working undercover all the time. That sort of thing.)

    It's trickier if you kind of want the reader to temporarily forget all about the character. In that case, make sure your character is strongly introduced at the start, as before, so the reader won't forget them. However, then drop all references to this character as the main story progresses, so the reader will no longer be thinking about this character. Then when the character reappears at the end, the reader will feel satisfied at the twist you've engineered, but won't feel cheated because you shoveled in somebody they hardly knew.

    Without knowing the ins and outs of your plot, I'd say make the character's reappearance be as big a surprise to the reader as it is to your main character. It won't be a surprise if we don't know or barely remember the character, though, so make sure the character leaves a strong first impression.
     
  7. Sapphire at Dawn
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    Sapphire at Dawn Member

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    Sadly I can't do that as the characters don't know each other at the beginning of the story. Their friendship has to develop over the course of the story, yet I'm having trouble in developing that friendship in a way that has any bearing on the plot. She does have to disappear at some point in the story, so I can use the idea that the MC misses the character etc. I actually like that idea a lot, so thank you both for the suggestion. As you said, I can get the reader bonding/becoming invested in the friendship without the character actually being there or doing anything.
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Ah, I see our responses crossed in the ether. I was thinking along the same lines as @Tenderiser. However, your problem is that you want the problem character to live nearby, but not to figure in the majority of the plot.

    Again, maybe a version of what we've both suggested. Have the problem character matter at the start of the story, then fade into the background ...for some plausible reason. Then reappear at the end.

    I'm sure you'll come up with a solution that fits your plot. Just make sure that we know and remember the character, so when she reappears and increases importance at the end, we don't feel as if you've just pulled somebody in out of nowhere just to satisfy the plot requirements. That's when readers feel cheated. If she figures in at the end, give her a strong reason for doing so. And even hint at that reason near the beginning (cleverly disguised, of course.)
     
  9. Sapphire at Dawn
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    Sapphire at Dawn Member

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    Yes, I can do that. She could be part of how my MC copes with the transition of moving to the village and thus important in that way. The friendship is then established and the character goes away for a while (she needs to do this to find out information that has a bearing on what she does later). The MC wishes she was there to help with other, more plot related problems that happen which would do as you said. She can then reappear ready to fulfil her role.

    Thank you both so much. You've been very helpful and I've got several ideas for scenes I can add. Sometimes all I need is to discuss things to get it moving again.
     
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  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, it's a tricky thing to manage, but I'm sure you'll do fine. The fact that you recognised the problem shows you know what you're doing. Good luck!
     
  11. JoetheLion
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    JoetheLion Member

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    Can you not tie her in using a very very small and simple sub plot? It doesn't even need to be something that effects the main story arc at all, just establishes her and the MC's friendship before you pull her into the main plot itself. Maybe a small, but niggling everyday problem the MC has or a service they use, which you can utilise to add extra depth to your MC and establish the friendship by building it up little by little. It could be something as simple as the job she does requiring the MC to interact with her in small but recurrent ways, such as a bank clerk, shop assistant, librarian, postal worker...the list is endless and could be tailored to fit any fictional world however fantastical, historical, or speculative.
     
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  12. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I see no reason why a potentially interesting character with a meaningful relationship with the main character, and who does something important later can't be important. Importance is arbitrary. If you show her and make us care about her, she's important. Weave her into scenes. It can be in whatever way you imagine, as long as you can make it work. The only reason the main character is important is because they are the main character. That is the only thing they need. If you have different parameters of attention, what matters is different. If the character matters to the main character, they matter. Especially if it is from first-person. And if the character isn't exciting enough tonally for your story, if it's very dramatic and the character is too peaceable and unimportant, then change the character. All your problems are you own inventions here. You're a writer. So, what issues are things you've put in worth changing to fit the character better? Why can't you make the character do more? Why can't they do something interesting earlier?
     
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  13. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    IMO, this character isn't redundant at all.

    You could use her as the person your MC confides in, the one who helps clarify things as the MC makes decisions along the way, the shoulder to cry on, etc. And whenever she's asked to get involved, she has a sound reason not to... until the end.
     
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