Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When they won't stay fired

How and when do you decide to make a minor character recurring? Or don’t you? 

By Vicki Delany

I’m enjoying these questions put to us by readers!

I agree with a lot of what Sue-Ann says.  The characters do seem to have lives and intentions of their own, so it’s often not a decision at all.  Sort of like I might decide that that rather annoying new neighbour will be moving out soon.

Unfortunately, she has no intention of doing so.

Case in point: Adam Tocek, the RCMP dog handler who becomes Molly’s boyfriend (and later? Wait and see!)  He appears in one scene in the first book in the series,  In the Shadow of the Glacier, when Molly is at a potential riot and she, being still on probation at this point, is more than happy when a couple of RCMP officers show up to help out.  

At that time I was working with a group of guys by the names of Tocek, Chen, and Farzanah. How’s that for good Canadian names (and me, a Delany)? I asked if I could use their names in the book I was writing and they were keen.  So, Tocek and Chen show up at the riot. (Farzanah had to wait for another book,)

And that was to be the end of that.  Turns out that behind my back Adam Tocek was giving Molly Smith the eye.   And being the rather shy sort that he is it takes him a good three books to get around to asking her out.  Who knew? Not me.

As for working the other way, when you decide to make a minor character leave, that is probably more of an author’s decision.  Characters never seem to WANT to leave, so sometimes they have to be fired.  Kicked off stage protesting all the way.

Again, an example.  Meredith Morgenstern is a small but important character in the first four books in the series. She’s a newspaper reporter in their small town, and she and Molly Smith have an animosity that goes back to something that happened in high school that neither of them can remember.  Meredith is constantly sticking her nose in where it doesn’t belong, and messing up the police investigation, but I soon began to realize that I was running out of things for Meredith to believably do.  So she got a pink slip.  I was, however, very nice to her and I found her a new job at a muck-raking tabloid in Montreal.


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Vicki, you're too nice. When a character needs to leave and drags their feet about it, I say give them a permanent pink slip - kill them off!

Howard Sherman said...

One of the "signatures" in my writing is to re-use the names of two minor characters in some of my interactive fiction novels.

That's the names of the characters - mind you - not the characters themselves.

So far I've introduced a minor character in two different novels - each one a stand-alone work. Why? It made perfect sense as that minor character supported both stories very nicely.

That would seem to be the most important criteria to me.