I guess now that I’ve confessed the big “W” (meaning I write books) to you all, I should feel a little more comfortable to tell you a little bit about the process.
I am just finishing my first draft of my very first completed novel ever. I have written for years; but never actually finished a novel. Well, I’m finishing it now( probably this weekend at that).
My writing is very much informed by my own creativity, yes, but also by the excessive amount of reading I do and have done my entire life. I like to write in the way that I like to read. Meaning, some of the devices that I see that I like I try to weave into my story. Things that drive me nuts ---my literary pet peeves, per se--- I like to try and avoid.
This led me to pondering today about Throwaway Characters. Throwaway Characters, as defined by Rachel, are those characters you introduce in quantifiable periphery for the express purpose of moving a central plot point forward. No one is going to dwell on and savour them, their words will not loll on your tongue after bouts of fascinating dialogue, they will not be well-drawn or developed, they are cameos. They are the Steve Buscemi role before he got big on Boardwalk Empire.
The problem with Throwaway Characters is knowing how to balance them so that the reader doesn’t meet them mid-way and go “where the heck did this person come from?”
|gratuitous fonzie photo c/o cafleurbon.com
My story is set during the months preceding , during, after and the general aftermath and reconstruction of the Halifax, Nova Scotia Explosion of 1917. My lovely hero meets a young man named Tip (Hi! Hi Little Dorrit! I needed a throwaway name to go with my throwaway character) at a very integral part of the story only because I needed a lucid and languid bridge from point A to point B. But now that I have quickly drafted Tip, I want to ensure that he is cleverly sewn into the seams of the story and is not just a bolting, jolting transition that forces the reader to get whiplash (he comes and goes and goes and comes ) or invest in someone they need not invest in. Emotionally. At all. ( Sorry Tip. I don’t care about you. You are a plot point).
Now, in television, throwaway characters often become breakout characters---the Arthur Fonzarellis, for example. There is no way that Tip is going to be Fonzie: I am in control and that is not in his master plan. But, I am thinking of times in the past when maybe I have fallen deeply for a throwaway character and then been SUPER bummed that they didn’t get more page time.
So, as readers and writers, how do you make sure that your throwaway characters receive the amount of investment they need? Enough for you to go from plot point A à B with very little harm done?