Tuesday, May 11, 2010

If Two's Company...

They say that your testimony is never for yourself, but for someone else. In keeping with the validity of those words of wisdom, I’m going to share one of my literary testimonies with you.

When I began writing I embraced the view of ‘Art Imitating Life’. Not a bad vision to follow, wouldn’t you say? Well, my editor did not agree with my point of view as it pertained to the cast of characters I thought anyone could keep up with. Two seconds into the first round of developmental/content editing, two characters (I considered vital to the story), their supporting cast and 20,000 words were surgically removed from the story.

I say surgically removed because in my mind they were intricate to the story. They had become so necessary that it took some serious convincing to get me to agree that removing that literary tumor was the only way to save the life of my story.

If any of you have had surgery or have walked with one prior to, during and through the recovery process, you understand that each step is vital for a positive outcome. In my case, removal of what did not move the story along was the easy part. Following the procedure I was sent to ‘Dig Deeper’ rehab in order to strengthen what flesh had been left the bones of the now emaciated story.

In order to do that, I had to have the will to change. Change what? My mindset. As noble as that sounds, that couldn’t transpire until I first understand the benefits of the change. This happened through being able to apprehend and understand the types of characters that creat a story and their appropriat functions. For your conveniences a list of types of charcters and their functions are below.
Protagonist: The main character – one who is essential to the story

Antagonist: The one(s) who bring opposition to the protagonist

Supporting Character: A compliment to the major character – is useful in moving the story along

Minor Character: Plays a small role – Example: He is the private investigator who feeds info to the attorney who is a supporting character.*

*Rule of Thumb – don’t give him/her a name. Name insertion often leads the reader to want to know something about the character. Their information does not move the story along.

Understanding the roles of the character(s) is not enough. Having the right balance coupled with effective use of their roles is the winning combination to be applied. Once I understood this and the pitfalls of its absence, it became my job to rebuild the shell of what and who had been left, into a feasible story. That’sthe therapeutic role of rewriting.

Initially it was a challenge, but like all therapy, you have to work through the pain until the results of your commitment is seen by not only you, but by your editors and readers.

That’s it for today. Next week we will conclude this mini-series with the topic of RESEARCH. Until then – be blessed and don’t forget to use your words to bear good fruit.



  1. It depends on several factors for a structural base. I feel that character development should be based on the nature of the story and how the authors are writing plot, subplot and plot twists. Usually, there is a proportion in the number of characters based on the size of the novel. Huge novels with only one or two characters may become too dense, and too many characters for a small novel will make all characters uninteresting. In my mind for a book with between 10,000 - 80.00 words there should be no more than 6 characters -- two main characters, Protagonist vs. Antagonist, and 4-5 characters for conflict between former and latter...which would include but not limited to a back story for good plot twists . Good secondary characters usually can paint plausible coloration for a supporting cast broadening the main story.

  2. Great advice and I look forward to reading the next segment

  3. Your observations are on point Alvin. With skill, an author can present a larger cast without convuluting the storyline and mystifying the reader.


  4. I'm glad you're enjoying the series. We will conclude next week. I invite you to suggest topics that may be of interest to you for future discussion.