Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Every once in a while, we writers will introduce a new character simply because the scene demands one.  We don’t intend for this person to stay around very long, and once they’ve served their purpose, we discard them and they’re never seen or heard from again.

Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

However, what happens when you set up a scene or two with a throwaway character only to find that that person has more of an impact with the audience than you intended?  In Salvation Day, I introduced a character called Gary.  Gary was meant to act as a sounding board for the main character, Mike Faulkner, as he worked through his grief and temptation to the dark side.  I saw him as just an extension of Mike’s thoughts, but a monologue in Mike’s head would be boring, so I put that monologue in the visage of a person, never intending for Gary to be anything other than an afterthought.

So imagine my surprise when my first few beta-readers wanted to know what became of Gary by the end of the book.  It seemed I’d created a character people cared about, an overall good guy who had a conscience and was the moral avatar of the first part of the novel.  People demanded resolution since Gary never made another appearance after the first third of the book, and I didn’t provide closure of some kind for him.
It taught me a valuable lesson – never create a character, no matter how minor you may think that character is, on a whim.  Stories spin out in strange directions, and although you may intend a specific effect and feeling, readers have a funny way of deciding on their own what they will and what they won’t care about.  They’re almost like people that way.
As to Gary, and a few others like him in other books, I’m not sure I can shoehorn them into a narrative that’s already complete without making the story too cumbersome.  However, in the fantasy world of fiction, there is always the chance to revisit people in sequels, so I think that’s what I’m going to do.  Gary will make an appearance in the next book in the series since he made such an impact, and I’ll find a way to wrap up his storyline in the greater context.  Hopefully it doesn’t come across as forced…and hopefully the audience will be just as enamored of him as they were the first go around.

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