Combining Characters

One of the most helpful things I’ve learned to do while revising is to combine characters with similar roles. I’m currently in the midst of revising the XIII series, which includes nearly 500k words in total.

What’s bugging me about the series is that I have a multitude of characters who don’t really do much. They don’t advance the plot. They’re essentially minor characters, but somewhere down the line I tricked myself into thinking they were major by giving them a POV. Some of them actually have fairly well-developed personalities, but if you go past that, they serve the same story purpose.

Combining all of those personality traits together into one character rather than two or three different ones makes for a more interesting, well-rounded character.

Having a close-knit circle of characters rather than a panorama of different faces to remember makes the story seem less sprawling. The brother character can be combined with the friend, and even with the band’s guitarist. The love interest of one character can also be the sister or neighbor of another character.

But eliminating and combining characters can be rather painful. I’m going to have to bid farewell to one certain character that I’ve loved a lot and put my heart into. But the more I realize it, the more I realize that the story as a whole is better off without that particular character.

Ah, so bittersweet.

6 thoughts on “Combining Characters

  1. I did this quite recently. I had two characters in a story that I didn’t really felt advanced the plot after their initial purpose had been fulfilled. So I removed them both, and from their ashes came a new character of whom is almost pivotal to the story!

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  2. My piddly little 170,000-word second novel seemed pretty big until now. 500k? Makes mine seem like a novella. 🙂

    I have somewhat fewer options in this than some people, since I always write about the same (ever-expanding) cast of characters. So, if I think, “Hey, this would work better if xxxx had a different girlfriend, who was more like this: yyyyyy,” then I have to explain what happened to the girlfriend xxxx had in the last book, which might be worthwhile, but might be a distration.

    Of course, now I’m starting a complete rewrite of the WIP, so I am dealing with how many of the characters from the previous books need to be in this one at all. Including the one who I used to think was the main character. Boy, she’s gonna be pissed if I leave her out…

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