Posted in Managing Characters, All Articles

The phenomenon of the reincarnating character: when your characters are all the same.

Do you sometimes feel that most of your main characters are different versions (or reincarnations!) of one character that you’ve already created before and wrote about? For example – are all your female protagonists the copy of a protagonist who is introverted and comes from a small village?

If yes, then you are probably wondering: “Is it bad?

No. It’s not bad.

Most readers won’t notice anyway. A reason for that is that readers seldom read all books that an author has released. And if they do, and the characters are similar, this is seen as something good. It creates a feeling that the author knows what they are doing and that there is a pattern in their writing. It shapes reader’s expectations and if they come to your books and get what they were expecting – you get bonus points. Which mean mostly reader’s loyalty and even more great reviews.

You are allowed to express yourself through the same character as many times as you want. It’s not wrong. And nobody can take it away from you. In fact, there are famous writers who keep writing about the same kinds of characters over and over again – like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Haruki Murakami.

Let’s dive deeper into the phenomenon of the reincarnating character.

“I first created Ann, then Anabel, then Anette. Now I’m tempted to write about Annice. Why does it happen?”

The reason for this is that the original character (in this case: Ann) feels particularly close to you and like I’ve mentioned before, is a preferred channel of expression for you. You have so much to say through this one character, that you recycle them over and over again to be able to tell even more. Recycling of characters happens especially when you’ve chosen NOT to write a series. Protagonists of a series seldom return to you as you had plenty of time and space to express what you wanted through them.

When we create a character, we don’t realize how important they could become in the future. Very often, we realize that their life was too short after we’ve finished working on their story. And so, we write a new story about someone similar, and jump into the boat with that character again, ready for a new journey.

Sometikes, third person characters change to incredibly important characters in your mind, and become the main characters in another project.

You probably have more reincarnating characters that you are aware of:

Sometimes, you will want to perpetuate the life of a secondary or tertiary character consciously. I’ll give you an example: it’s that mean ex, whose name, looks and personality isn’t important, but she’s there to ruin your hero’s romance. Or, it’s that good hearted uncle who appears out of nowhere to help the main character out of trouble each time they get into it. The face and attire might be different, but deep down it’s always the same character, who, like an actor, plays similar roles in various theaters.

Now take a moment to think: how many times have you used the stereotype of a beggar, a bus driver or a doctor?

I am asking you not to blame you, but to point out for you, that by facilitating our work over and over again, we do recreate the same characters without even being aware.

In order to change this pattern, you need to focus on the character creation more and force yourself to invent original characters instead of taking the easy path. It might be a huge challenge, especially if you write a lot and create characters constantly. I’ll try to write more articles about characters so as to help you.

Stay inspired!

Posted in Managing Characters, All Articles

How to remove characters from plot (without killing them)

Photo by STIL, Unsplash.com

If you are writing in the following genres: horrors, thrillers, detective stories, post-apocalyptic / dystopian fiction, war chronicles etc., killing characters is something that you are almost required to do.

However, a lot of authors who write outside of these genres often use character death to get rid of the characters that for some reason stopped serving them. If you have ever read a book in which an important character died suddenly, leaving you (and his team) angry and confused, you know what I am talking about.

Especially in long series, authors choose to kill character after character, using it as a way to push forward the plot. The remaining characters don’t have the chances to mourn the deceased ones, or on the countrary – they get stuck in a downward spiral of neverending mourning. At this point the authors have already created tragedy porn and lost the readers’ respect. 

How to avoid this?

The answer is simple. Don’t kill characters unless you absolutely have to, and no, “I don’t need them anymore” is not a valid reason. Learn to remove characters from your plot using other techniques – which I am sharing with you today:

  1. Graduation
  2. Changing schools
  3. Receiving a scholarship
  4. Contract termination
  5. Being fired
  6. Being transferred
  7. Going on internship
  8. Visa ending
  9. Returning home
  10. Family issues (helping sister with her newborn child, dealing with official matters regarding inheritance, supporting father during his rehab etc…)
  11. Going on a journey
  12. Going on a mission
  13. Going on pilgrimage
  14. Withdrawing due to health issues (staying in hospital, being on therapy, having a mental breakdown etc…)
  15. Changing the clique (due to a new hobby, after starting to date a new partner etc…)
  16. Quitting the relationship / friendship / agreement due to an argument
  17. Hanging out less and less until naturally disappearing
  18. Plot changes place (for example, if up to this moment the main characters were in Italy, move half of them to a new place).
  19. Main characters decide to spend less time with disappearing character (they found someone who works better or they simply got tired / disappointed… )
  20. Disappearing character goes through a personal revolution and starts turning their life upside down.
  21. Disappearing character is about to get something better than he had until now / something he always wanted, which makes them focus on their life mostly.
  22. Disappearing character falls in love with one of the main characters, gets rejected and disappears.
  23. Disappearing character completed his duty at the side of the main character (for example, a high school piano teacher gets replaced by university piano teacher)

Possibilities are really endless. My general advice is: think of the ground on which you created the relationship between the main character and the disappearing character. Then, simply remove this ground. You can also combine many reasons into one, if you feel that one reason isn’t strong enough.

Finally, if you changed your mind and need the unwanted character back, with the upper solutions you can make them return at any moment – for example, if they have become extremely popular in the fandom.