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Those Unneccessary Characters ….

by Kellyn Roth |
September 30, 2015

The Dressmaker's Secret
When you write a book, you’ll like as not create several characters that are just unnecessary to the plot. You’ll put a lot into them; developing backstories, personalities, pages and pages of hard work.
And then … you’ll find that those characters are more hinder than a help to your novel!
I had several of these in The Dressmaker’s Secret and probably there are a few more that I don’t exactly need.
For instance, my beloved Mavis Williams. One of Alice’s friends from boarding school. A tomboyish American girl whose parents ignored her all her life which has made her sarcastic and a bit bitter, while still likably frank. I really liked her.
Then there was Riley Farjon (who I will instead be introducing in the sequel), another American who frequently visited his sisters in London … and in the first few drafts the one who told Alice a rather hole-filled story about her ‘father’ which prompted her to challenge Miss Chattoway in a ridiculous drama-filled climax … I won’t go into it. As all writers know, what happens in the first draft stays in the first draft. 😉
Do you have characters that have no practical purpose despite your own attachment to them? Do you have characters who you’ve developed just because you enjoy writing an extra dramatic backstory or two?
Perhaps you don’t have to entirely remove the character. Perhaps you could just sharpen them up. But perhaps it’s better just to let go of your unnecessary favorites. Who can tell? It’s your story. I’d have to know the plot (and especially the character) before I could tell.
~Kellyn Roth

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4 Responses

  1. When I finished the rough draft of my book and had my sister read it, it gave her a headache because there were so many people in my book that were flat-out unnecessary!
    At the end of my 1st draft I had 78 characters in my 150 page book!
    And the book was only about one person!
    I’m on my 6th draft and down to 20 characters, and right now whenever someone asks me what advice I can give to budding writers I always say, “If they don’t show up more than twice in the story, then get rid of them or give there part to a more main character.”
    Confusion is one of the biggest reading discouragements. I’ve read my fair share of books where I actually had to keep a log of characters in order to remember what was who was who!

  2. I got into writing a few years ago and wrote a pretty long book and then I phased out of it and put it away. I took it out a few weeks ago and started editing it and you wouldn’t believe how many characters I took out. It really helps to put it away (not as long as I did, though) and come back to it a bit later; characters you see as fine in the story before will change and you’ll see just how “unnecessary” they were.

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