Well, not lost exactly. Laid off. Perhaps to be resurrected in a future work?
This is why you do character arcs! As I went through all the main characters I gradually realized that one of the key ones just didn’t really have that much to do. He was supposed to be the romantic interest, but as he went through the story he mostly just held back out of a kind of glum fear. Not only was he not really contributing much, but I realized I didn’t actually respect him, so how could my main character fall in love with him? Although he did have a crucial role to play in the climax, it really came out of nowhere. So I started asking myself questions.
- If I were Kay (my main character), who in this cast would I fall for?
- Why does that other character appeal to Kay? Can I strengthen those characteristics she would find attractive?
- Does becoming attracted to Kay (and attractive to her as well) conflict in any way with the role this character was originally supposed to play? Can he reasonably, naturally do both?
- If he were in the situation of the final climax, how would he act? Would it be natural for him to do what my original character was supposed to do?
This then led me to the most important question:
- If I removed my original character, would it leave a hole that I can’t fill?
And my answer was: No.
After I got my breathing and heart rate under control (restructuring my main characters at this point, just a month out from NaNoWriMo, makes my palms sweat), I realized this will all work out just fine. I’m keeping the name of the original character because I like it (the new one was named–wait for it–Tom!) and it actually fits this other character even better than the poor, hapless original.
So we move forward with only one character arc left to map out, and it’s the main bad guy. Well, kind of the main bad guy; the truly main bad guy is a monolith of dread, too one-dimensional to be a real character. The one left to map is the Big Bad’s captain, the one who does the actual dirty work. I’m going to have fun with her.
How about you? Have you had characters slip through your fingers as you plan your work? How did you deal with it?