Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Each Character has a Job

The Wind in the Willows

It’s a rough world out there right now, job-wise.

It’s even rough for characters in manuscripts. I’ve found that if one of my characters isn’t doing their job in telling the story, then it’s time for them to get canned.

After all, we don’t have all the time in the world to just let a story meander around. If I’ve written a character in, they need to perform. Some of them need to create conflict for my protagonist (like the interfering son who won’t let my sleuth do her investigating.) Some of them need to provide clues or red herrings for my detective. Some need to be killed, some need to be murderers, and some of them need to be bystanders….but even the bystanders have a job to do. They should be entertaining or colorful in some way.

I need quieter characters, too—like Ratty and Mole in The Wind in the Willows. They were gentle, quiet creatures—and great foils for Toad. Some of my characters are straight-men for my funny protagonist. Some of them are sounding boards so my sleuth isn’t having long conversations with herself, wondering who the killer is.

But if I have a character that isn’t really doing anything, or if they’re just kind of hanging out in my manuscript without a purpose, it’s time for them to get their pink slips. Let them mess up someone else’s manuscript.

I’m taking a three day break from blogging to celebrate Thanksgiving with family. Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and will enjoy these older posts of mine. :) This post originally ran June 8, 2009. Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends and all the best to my others!