Monday, October 16, 2017

Excision

Branches, 2001

It is not easy to excise a character from a story.

Working on my fantasy story, now into its third draft, I thought that it might be easier to write and draw to a conclusion more quickly if I got rid of some of the excess characters. There are a lot of them, they keep appearing as possibilities that seem good at the time. But each new character complicates the story, they are all hellbent on their own conclusions which don’t necessarily coincide with mine or my original main characters’.

So for the third draft I picked a couple of what I thought were minor characters and wrote them out. I rewrote one pivotal chapter without those two and it went not too badly so I proceeded. The next chapter was also not so hard, but it did mean I had to substitute another existing character for one of the two that were now missing. The third chapter after that was drastically foreshortened due to the missing characters, and by the fourth I was running into problems. It seems that at least one of my missing characters was more integral to the action than I had thought and taking him out was causing some difficulty. How do I explain things without him there to ask the right questions or give the right answers?

Now I was starting to rethink the operation. Did I really want to continue without that missing character? I tried to see into the future of how the plot was going to proceed without him, and it was murky. Perhaps he wasn’t as extraneous as I thought he was. The other missing character I could still do without, but he was related to the first one and I would have some serious rethinking and rewriting to do if I got rid of one and not the other. They were kind of a package deal. The whole idea was to simplify the story and speed up the action, and instead it was having the opposite effect. It is not easy to excise a character from a story.

Sometimes I think my life would have been entirely different and so much better if only I had done this or not done that, if I had turned left instead of right, or vice versa. But is rewriting one’s life any different? Could I really eliminate this or that character from my life and have it not become more complicated than it already is?

3 comments:

Rain Trueax said...

Well, you are right that too many characters can muddy the story and distract. You might see if another character can pick up the slack by rewriting them earlier to be in that situation where you later need the dialogue or action. I start out with quite a few possible characters and usually find some just aren't needed and someone else can fill that slot. Too many characters confuse your readers.

Wisewebwoman said...

Interesting dilemma as related to real life. I just tossed z book that had too many characters and knew I'd done the right thing when a Google search produced a chart of all the character intertwining so.

H'm.

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joared said...

Making different life choices or eliminating, even adding, other characters in real life might result in things turning out differently. We often think results might be better, but might not consider the consequences could be worse. So, should be true in your fantasy story.