30 Days of Writing: Day 19 – Minor to Major

19. Favorite minor that decided to shove himself into the spotlight and why!

None really come to mind. Two reasons for that:

First, I know many writers talk of characters getting out of hand. This doesn’t happen to me. Occasionally, something I have a character do doesn’t ring true, and that’s probably because what I’ve done is somehow wrong in terms of the plot (or I didn’t know what the character needed to do in terms of plot). When the plot is straightened out, the characters act right because they are my tools for driving the plot.

Second, I have a bad memory with respect to process. If a minor character became major, I’ve overwritten the fact that they were ever minor. It’s the same as when I’m revising. The previous version of the story becomes overwritten, though often not perfectly. (Eric would argue that I have a bad memory in all things.  He has probably come up with five good examples of minor characters that be came major in the minute and half it took to read this.)

9 thoughts on “30 Days of Writing: Day 19 – Minor to Major

  1. Anonymous

    minor to major

    I’ve come across writer descriptions where this whole “characters getting out of hand” thing is brought up, and it’s always amazed and intimidated me. The idea that someone can become so engrossed in a storyline, that he/she is creating from nothing, and “lose control” of where it goes, just doesn’t ring true. It feels like an exaggeration, contrived to make the creative process more mysterious than it is or needs to be.

    Sure, things may turn out different from what you imagined they might be at the beginning. But it’s not like you’re sitting at the eraser end of a pencil, shouting in disbelief as your character(s) create unforeseen mayhem paragraph by paragraph on the page in front of you.

    Although now that I write that, it might be a cool story.


    1. najud

      Re: minor to major

      What actually happens is that the writer just didn’t have a good grasp of what it would take to make the plot go as they planned. Then they blame it on the characters.

      The real reason Katherine can’t point at a character that grew out of hand, is that we have no expectation for the role of most characters when we start out. They are tools to drive the plot and will be used as necessary. A character that only existed as the guy who “disappeared” Benes when we started Luck for Hire is Howell, and he will be a major character in the book. Balito started the same way in Divine Fire as the guy keeping tabs on Marie for her husband.

      1. Anonymous

        Re: minor to major

        Huh. That kind of surprises me. It seems to me that the characters are *at least* as important as the plot, rather than simply devices to move the plot forward. The characters are the agents through which your audience interacts with your plot. Or, maybe that’s a function of the genre. What the hell do I know about it anyway? It’s interesting to think about, and very interesting to watch the creative process in action, as provided by you guys so far.

      2. Katherine Nabity Post author

        Re: minor to major

        Always good to hear an intelligent reader’s point of view. At least for me, being called out on the process causes me to contemplate it more.

        It’s my job to make characters that are accessible and interesting to the reader while they do their job as plot drivers. I’m not sure if I’ve been doing a good job of that lately.

      3. najud

        Re: minor to major

        I will go even one further and say the characters pretty much ARE the plot. Therefore, when one is making adjustments to how things will play out, the characters must change. Likewise, characters bend events to their will. It is all one big matrix of interaction of characters within the environment from state begin to state end.

      4. Anonymous

        Re: minor to major

        Party foul. You can’t say “characters pretty much ARE the plot” when you just said “They are tools to drive the plot and will be used as necessary.”

        Unless ‘najud’ was somebody one time, then somebody else another time.


        p.s. I hope Katherine’s Grandma is doing better.

      5. najud

        Re: minor to major

        When an object is conceptualized as a system, it really is just being seen as a number of sub-objects with relationships to other (sub)objects. If the plot is the systemized object, then the sub-objects are things like the character and setting. Since the characters have the most complex relationships with other characters, they are the primary divers of the plot and the best tools for manipulating it. Further, since they constitute the strongest drivers of the plot they pretty much are the plot. Certainly, circumstances imposed by forces outside of the characters can come into play. Usually these sorts of devices are used too often by bad writers to get to the conclusion they desire. Katherine has a term for this when she sees it. I believe the word is “cheating”.

      6. Katherine Nabity Post author

        Re: minor to major

        Yes, occasionally the story gets away from me. (See: Big Sprawling Fantasy Novels)

        I wouldn’t call Balito a major character, even though I suppose he kind of is.

        But I do otherwise agree with Eric. I don’t start out with a list of characters; therefore, I don’t start out by defining who is major or minor. It’s more like, “Okay, I’m going to need this kind of character to do this.”

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