1. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Using side characters from one novel in another?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tenderiser, Jan 27, 2016.

    I'm thinking of taking a fairly minor character from my novel and using her as the main character in my second. It helps me with my biggest problem - lack of ideas/imagination - because I already know a little of her life, background and personality.

    But then I realised I've never seen this done before, and there's probably a reason for that. Or has it been done, and I've just never come across it? Are there pitfalls I'm not seeing?
     
  2. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Didn't Kilgore Trout show up in a lot of Vonnegut's novels?

    Do the stories share a common setting? I remember Barthe DeClements had a children's series that switched characters povs from book to book featuring mc's that had been second bananas in prior books or a character barely mentioned. But they all shared a common school and classmates. It was kinda like Degrassi.
     
  3. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Never read Vonnegut. Did you have a positive/neutral/negative reaction to the recurring character?

    Yep, she lives in the same area as the protagonist from novel #1, but they don't work together. In my plan, protagonist #1 pops up near the end in a very background way (like protagonist #2 did in novel #1) but apart from that, they might as well be separate books. The easiest thing would be to change the character's name and make it a separate book, but I'm really attached to her with the name I've been thinking about her with for a year...
     
  4. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I thought the Kilgore Trout reverences were fun - like he was some celebrity belonging to Vonnegut's world.

    I've fallen in love with characters names and such and wanted to have them pop up in other books too. I could never justify the leap from one world to the next though.

    I think using the character would be fine. I don't see any real hassles to face - though I don't know if you should promote a tie-in or just let your readers make the discovery themselves. Kind of like an interesting fact for fans.
     
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  5. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Writing is a form of Sadomasochism. :P Contributor

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    Aren't characters like actors? I think having the equivalent of a prominent extra, show up in another book would be fine. Think of it like a cameo appearance. If the character in question is so minor, it could even be considered an 'Easter egg'. It is up to you to change their name or not, but if they are as minor as you say they are then I don't think people will notice them for having the same name, or being the same person.

    I say give it a whirl and get some feedback, it sounds like a good idea to me. Good luck. :)
     
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  6. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If people didn't like recurring characters, book and TV series wouldn't be such a huge thing :p If anything, a side character made the protag in a different book would surely interest any existing readers you have, anyone who'd read the previous book and enjoyed that character. Honestly, how many times have you found yourself thinking, "The MC is boring but that side character's amazing! Wish they'd do more on that character instead"? I have, even if it's just in reaction to Sailor Moon :D
     
  7. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Thanks all! I feel more confident about it now. I was trying to find another name for her on the way home and none of them fit as well as her "real" name.

    I need to be careful with protag #1 so I don't give away the ending of her novel in this one. I'll just make her a very background character - though she has to be mentioned, as they're best friends.
     
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  8. Electralight

    Electralight Member

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    I love when authors do that! There is one series where each book is centered on a different girl (they all go to the same school). Each girl has a problem to overcome (one's mom dies, one's being abused, one's anorexic) and they are all minor characters in each others story.
     
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  9. Raven484

    Raven484 Contributor Contributor

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    Stephen King does this a lot. But I don't think he ever made them a main character. Good luck with it.
     
  10. King Arthur

    King Arthur Banned

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    Was used by Balzac in his comédie humaine spanning several dozen novels. One of the side characters de Rastignac appears in ~ten novels as a "main side character" and is mentioned by name in ~ten other novels.
     
  11. SethLoki

    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    I like this touch, so long as it's thought through and free of any obvious inconsistency. Yes, I'd say do it, especially if the character passes the interview for the new role. If it's a novel not of the supernatural ilk then the only restraint I can see is the time period. The backdrop for the setting could be anywhere—people move about.

    It's definitely been done btw in addition to what @King Arthur has mentioned above, David Mitchell's side characters are littered throughout his.... what's the word?? Ahh yes, 'oeuvre'*—his err, oeuvreverse. For me, it's an element that makes me a loyal reader of his.



    * my first spoken word aged 21 months I'm informed.**



    ** okay—it was 'hoover' (and with a silent aitch) but close enough.
     
  12. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is also a dynamic found in a lot of Larry Niven's work, especially his Known Space novels. In those books, though, it's not just the side characters, but side events, side locations. You can pretty much bet that any incident, happenstance, person or location that's mentioned in passing in one Known Space novel is the center of the story in one of the others.
     
  13. tonguetied

    tonguetied Contributor Contributor

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    Although this is slightly off topic, I think it could be interesting to have a minor character subtly affect the plot in the first novel and still be a minor character in a subsequent novel(s) but the subtle affect of this character now makes you wonder about the outcome of the earlier story. Maybe the minor character is not so minor after all sort of thing.
     
  14. Tesoro

    Tesoro Contributor Contributor

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    Lots of books and tv-series make spin-offs where they take a side character and make her a protagonist in her own story, and I actually like that :) I know of quite a few authors in my native language who has done that, and with success, so that it would be something that hasn't been done sounds strange to me. :)
     
  15. KevinMcCormack

    KevinMcCormack Active Member

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    As others have shown: it's very accepted. I think it's called 'in universe' writing.

    A Canadian author example is Michael Ondaatje's characters, who are central or peripheral, depending on novel. I'm thinking specifically of David Caravaggio, who was prominent in The English Patient, but only had one scene in In The Skin Of A Lion - the latter having been written 5 years ealier.

    I get the impression Ondaatje liked that ancillary character so much, he cast him into a bigger role in his next novel.
     

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