Saturday, January 20, 2007

Character to Author: "Why am I here?"

by Brian Mullen

Does every character in a story have to serve a purpose?

When I'm not writing mysteries, I am usually working on my science-fiction stories. I have plans...oh, so many plans...for my characters. But not for ALL of my characters. Let me explain.

I am writing a large collection of short stories taking place in a shared world. This means that the characters in each short story inhabit the same world. What happens in one story could affect what happens in others. Some characters reference each other. Others will eventually meet and interact.

My plans require me to write enough stories to fill seven books so that, in book #8, I can launch my master story that involves all of the main characters I've written so far. Except one. Right now, his stories have little impact on my plans.

He is one of my favorite characters to write and, on the surface, he has far more potential than most of my other characters. In fact, that's part of the problem. He has so much obvious potential that I feel he's not being utilized enough. But try as I might, I can't find a place in the final book for him. Should I delete him altogether? Or is it acceptable to have characters that accompany you throughout the journey but don't reach the destination with you?

If his involvement in the series were just a single story (or maybe even a few), I could probably cut him without much thought. But he will appear so many times in the first seven books that I believe the readers will be thinking his involvement in the climactic story is a foregone conclusion.

And today, it isn't. Hopefully tomorrow his place in the story will be clear. I look at the stories I've written so far, and the stories I've plotted and planned. I imagine him looking back at me and asking, "What's my purpose? Why am I here? Are there big things planned for me?"

And I don't know what to tell him.


Cathy said...

Your stories that interconnect sound like a great idea. And if this character you love doesn't fit into the ending, I'm sure his presence will still be validated in the other stories. But something tells me he will appear in the final work.

Thought provoking blog, Brian.

Tory said...

These pesky characters, showing up and making demands! I put them in their place. "I don't know where I'll be a year from now, how can I tell where you'll be?" But they never listen.


Joyce said...

That's why sometimes it's better to let your characters tell you what they want do. Many times, they know better than you do!