Deleting Unnecessary Characters

In the first draft of Ghost!Story, I had a character called Tim and a character called Tracy. They were baddies. Well, minions. But my awesome team of beta readers pointed out Tim lacked a backstory and kinda just...existed. None of them seemed so fussed about Tracy, but once I realised Tim needed to go, I figured Tracy was a tad redundant, too.

The thing is, both of them filled roles the story required. Fortunately, I plenty of other characters who could fulfill in their duties. Thus Tim and Tracy faded from existence.


Some books have space for tons upon tons of characters. Personally, I like to keep my cast small. I'm sure somebody out there has worked out the exact page-to-character ratio. When I think about it, I still have a lot of people running around this book, but two less really helped streamline it.

It's not always easy to delete a character and hand over their role to another, but sometimes it's really necessary, especially when you're getting feedback suggesting the character doesn't serve a purpose or lacks development. Less characters means more space to develop the ones you really do need. By deleting Tim, for example, I was able to hand his role over to a far more sinister character and develop that guy further.

Don't be afraid to get rid of characters. Just like the words you overuse, unnecessary characters clutter up the plot. I know it's a lot of work, but chances are it's work well worth doing. And you can always drop the character into your waiting room and see if another story comes along for them to take part in.

Comments

  1. Oooh, man, exciting changes are exciting. :D I always love your waiting room idea SO MUCH.

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    1. They are very exciting, and hopefully led to a much better book ;)

      Someone just came out of the waiting room to be in my current WiP. He's been waiting for a loooong time.

      Delete
  2. Keeping the number of characters to a minimum is something I struggle with, though it probably doesn't help that I write about huge organisations and multiple worlds, when it would be a bit unrealistic to have only four characters. ;) It's definitely something I need to work on, because my default reaction to a plot issue is "throw in another character"... which usually doesn't solve the problem. :P

    A character waiting room sounds like a good idea!

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    1. In your situation, a huge cast of characters definitely makes sense. I admire you for keeping track of them all!

      Delete
  3. I've never thought of that. I can see how keeping it streamlined works and makes things easier to work with. As more characters are added you have more people to keep track of and a need to develop them more which can detract from the overall story. It can be hard to let one go but the story is most important.

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    1. That's exactly why I trim them down when necessary. I find it a lot easier to keep the story on track when I don't have scary number of characters running about the place.

      Delete
  4. Yes, this is such an important thing to do! Combining minor characters that have or could have overlapping roles is always something I try to do on my first/second edit pass!

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    1. Yeah, mine lasted until the second big pass. Then they were gone and not really missed... except for when I failed to notice their names still lurking in the text :P

      Delete
  5. You say, "The thing is, both of them filled roles the story required."

    Did they really just fade away?


    I have characters that fade away at some point. I had never thought of that before. Do you let your readers know where they faded too?

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    1. The readers will only know if they one day find this blog post. There's no suggestions left in the book that they ever existed.

      Sure is a hard life, not being real ;)

      Delete

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