Sunday, October 8, 2017

Forgotten Characters

I was working on rewriting the sequel for Akeldama when I realized that there were several characters that I was leaving out.  No, neither of the main two(Seth and Maxwell), but several others that were vital to advancing the plot of the first book.  It wasn't an intentional oversight designed to create some big reveal later on; I just forgot about them.

Looking back at some of my other work, it occurred to me that this isn't something new.  As my story advances in more than a few books, the characters that are no longer as important tend to fade away.  It seems to be no big deal to me, but I then remembered that other people will be reading this, and they might be interested in knowing why (insert character here) no longer shows up.  I don't like that hanging thread, even if it's not necessary to advance the novel.

So, what to do?  Well, I think keeping a running journal beyond the outline I use would be useful.  What I mean by that is for me to keep a sheet either at my desk or tacked up to the shelf above my computer that has a running tally of the characters, what they've done, and where there are at the moment.  It might help remind me who else is in the story beyond the main player(s).

Should it matter?  After all, I don't notice who's left once the plot moves to the next vital point, but several readers have asked me what happened to somebody that may no longer be as involved(there's a character in Salvation Day that has a tremendous impact at one point but who vanishes without a trace roughly a third of the way in...and no, that character didn't vanish because he got killed; he just wasn't needed any longer).  That showed me my weakness.

It's important for us as writers to remember that readers grow attached to certain characters, and we don't get to decide which characters that might be.  For example, one reviewer on Amazon grew much more fond of Maxwell than of Seth, which I never anticipated.  Another reader emailed me to say that he was curious what ever became of Dmitri.  These took me aback because neither was the main character.

The lesson is to not forget who you have in your story.  Readers will want to know what happened to them.

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