Author Topic: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later  (Read 9793 times)

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Offline ecb

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My agent and I just pitched a trilogy to my editor.  (And I mean *just.*  So we're not even waiting yet.  :waiting)

The first book is still a WIP, the second two mere gleams in the author's eye, but I'm trying to figure out some character movements.  As it stands now, the MC's love interest is introduced at the beginning of Book 1, but thereafter disappears entirely until Book 2 (she's way too busy foiling evil plots to have romance in Book 1).  I'm wondering if anyone has...

1. Tips on developing (but not over-developing) a character who will return later

2. Examples of series where a pretty major character slips away for, well, a book.

3. Anything else useful to offer.  :bighelp

Thanks!
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SproutQ

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2008, 06:23 PM »
Off the top of my head...

Characters slip in and out of the Dark is Rising series books.  If I remember correctly, the characters in the first book don't reappear until the third
Gandalf "dies" and disappears from a large chunk of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

These characters have all had time to develop, though.  Let me keep thinking.

naseoul

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2008, 07:30 PM »
Yeah...Gandalf is the only one that pops in my mind...But I don't think the character you're talking about "died", did he?


Offline ecb

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2008, 04:49 PM »
Erm, no. :dr  Altho' that actually does happen to somebody else, but it's a whole lot easier to deal with.  "Surprise!  He's alive!" pretty much covers it.  That character is allowed to "develop" in the MC's memories, so she has a perfectly valid reason for having him on her mind.  This guy, though... I don't know.
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naseoul

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2008, 04:57 PM »
Erm, no. :dr  Altho' that actually does happen to somebody else, but it's a whole lot easier to deal with.  "Surprise!  He's alive!" pretty much covers it.  That character is allowed to "develop" in the MC's memories, so she has a perfectly valid reason for having him on her mind.  This guy, though... I don't know.
;D Hm, well, a lot of characters in the Daughters of the Moon series disappear a bit...but then again, that series has like...10-12 books where not a lot happens in one book. And yours is a trilogy...hm...I've read many books where they disappear and reappear in the same book...

I don't know...but I think you should still go with it.

Offline Joni

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2008, 05:43 PM »
Um.... I have this in my trilogy. KEY character in #1 goes away for most of #2, comes back for #3. But he's mentioned/referred to/talked about in #2, and also appears in the first couple of chapters. Seems to me that as long as it's motivated in the story world, it should be fine.

So I have to hope it works. And I have to encourage you to do it, just so I'll have company. But I can't think of other books that do off the top of my head, except series that bounce around from one character to another and so lots of characters from the first book become less important or gone in subsequent books. (Like The Giver and its followers.)
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RyanBruner

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2008, 05:33 AM »
Well, I'm not published yet...but I have introduced a character in book one, chapter one who has VERY brief page-time.  She won't really play any major role in anything until book two, however.

The trick is, of course, not to make the character seem like they are there for no reason.  Don't try to develop them TOO much, because the reader might wonder why they don't show up again for the rest.  Instead, develop them enough to meet the needs of book one.  Make that character realistic, but don't make the reader expect to see more of them.

Here is the page-time you get for this character.

First, shortly into chapter 1:

Maybe she could pretend she hadn’t heard. Red was waiting just outside the doorway. Only, Rashae Geller was hovering by the door—along with her posse of stuck up friends. Rashae sneered at her, and Alex swallowed, trying not to look her in the eye. Alex turned around.

Then, later in chapter 1:

Then she stopped a few doors down from her own room. Rashae Geller’s door was open. She didn’t want to deal with Rashae Geller right now. She didn’t want to deal with Rashae Geller, ever.

Tip-toeing, Alex peered in, hoping for an empty room. No such luck. Rashae was standing there holding a tube of lip gloss, her reflection staring back at Alex.

“What?” Rashae said. Her mess of tight black curls looked like they were about to spring out and attack at any moment. “You got a problem?”

Alex pulled back, trying to look natural or confident or anything except how she actually felt.

“I said, you got a problem?”

Alex shook her head, biting at the dead skin on her own dry, cracked lips. Self-consciously, she grabbed at her long, sandy hair, trying to comb the tangles out with her fingers.

“What’s the matter? You still miss your mommy?”

Alex swallowed.

“You gonna go play dollies with your little sister?” Rashae laughed, leaned in toward the mirror and swiped some orange goop across her lip. She smooshed her lips together, puckered, then rolled her eyes at Alex. “Are you just gonna stare at me like that, or did you want some fashion advice?”

Alex’s insides turned to ice. “No. I just—”

“—go on, then, before you break my mirror with that face of yours.”


And finally, in chapter 3:

Alex turned a half second too late as Red slammed into her. Her book went flying, and she landed in Rashae Geller’s pudding.

...

“Get your backside out of my pudding, creep.” The rest of the Rashae’s girlfriends laughed, piercing Alex with vengeful glares of disgust. It was never a good idea to get on Rashae Geller’s bad side. She wasn’t even sure if it was a good idea to be on her good side.
“Here.” Alex plopped down her own cup of pudding. “I didn’t want mine anyway.”


So, all I've done is established a personality of Rashae.  But she doesn't play any further role in the story.  In book two, however, she will have more page time.

Running2StandStill

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2008, 06:18 PM »
My trilogy does this as well, Elizabeth, only slightly differently. The third member of the love triangle is seen in the first chapter, and from then on out, he is a part of her "past," and also of her dreaded future (she's engaged to marry someone she isn't sure she loves). So, throughout the book she thinks of him in a negative light while she is off on her adventure with the man she really does love.

Now in Book Two, her fiance comes into the picture quite heavily, and the love triangle gets very congested.  :yay for love triangles!
Only now, she is starting to realize he isn't as bad as she thought he was, and begins to second guess who it is she really loves.

Not sure how or if I'm helping you plan your trilogy and character development  :eh2  But, I would suggest developing the love interest just enough to make him important enough to return later. Give him a role that lasts throughout the book, even if he isn't really seen. If he disappears completely, even from your MCs thoughts, then when he shows up in Book Two as the love interest, it might be a bit jarring for the reader. Does she have a love interest in Book One? Or is love/romance/affection not a thread in that one?


Offline josullivan

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2008, 06:44 PM »
The Stravaganza series by Mary Hoffman is worth looking at to see how she brings characters in and out.
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Offline Diane

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2008, 07:07 AM »

I would think you might want to give the disappearing character a fairly weighty scene with your MC, so that it sticks in the reader's mind; perhaps he impacts on her decision to do something or other, so his influence is strong, if not omnipresent. We will remember him as being a catalyst in the story if not an active player at this time. He will have made enough of an impression that when he does return the reader will be interested to see how things play out. I would try not to leave the reader hanging, wondering for the whole book, Will Roger be back this chapter? Give him his time, and then get rid of him so it's not niggling for the whole book. That doesn't mean he can't reappear in the MC's thoughts, etc., or even have a brief cameo as it plays into the main plot of the book, but I wouldn't open up a huge question and then not answer it, a la soap operas.


Offline HB

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2008, 08:36 AM »
Is there chemistry when they first meet? If I'm anticipating a romance and then the guy disappears for the rest of the book I might find that offputting. You probably don't want to add another romantic entanglement (since she doesn't even have time for *one* while she's fighting evil) but I'm thinking maybe another guy as a placeholder. (Hmm, odd choice of words.) Even a minor character who tries to woo her but she's not interested so you don't have to waste too much page time on it.

In Libba Bray's series, the love interest kept disappearing for large (huge!) chunks of the three books. Personally, I would have liked to see a whole lot more Kartik.  :ha I understand her theme of feminism and know he had to be physically absent and not riding to the rescue of the helpless female. Knowing that didn't make it any less frustrating though. Some things she did to try to mitigate it was having Gemma think about him a lot (and vividly!) and introducing a temporary love interest.

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2008, 06:45 AM »
Doesn't Rachel Cohn do it the Gingerbread, Shrimp and Cupcake trilogy?  The MC's boyfriend plays a big part in book one but then doesn't resurface again until book 3.

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Offline ecb

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2008, 11:55 AM »
Quote
Doesn't Rachel Cohn do it the Gingerbread, Shrimp and Cupcake trilogy?  The MC's boyfriend plays a big part in book one but then doesn't resurface again until book 3.

Right, and I don't think that's unusual.  You kind of expect the cast to change a little book to book--and characters who are important in Book 1 might fade away.  In stories like Kate Constable's "Chanters of Tremaris" trilogy, there's a core cast of characters that continue through all three books... but each single book has another full cast of characters that belong only to the plot of *that* book.  I don't think that's really what I mean, though. 

What I'm talking about, though, is a character who plays a small (but important role) very briefly at the beginning of Book 1... and then disappears for the rest of that book.  He comes back as the focus for Book 2.

I dunno, but it seems different to me, somehow--like I'm introducing a character a full book too early, almost.  Imagine, say, seeing only the Cantina scene in "Star Wars," and not meeting Han again until Hoth.  Wouldn't that have been a little odd?  (And we do lose Han, in the middle of the "Empire," to get him back in "Jedi..." but, again, by then we've had a movie and a half to really get attached to him). 

I'm wondering if six chapters is enough to establish a connection with a character so that he'll still be important in the next book... but not SO much of a connection that we're completely bereft and confused to leave him behind.

Gah.

Maybe what I need to be looking at are the Bayern books.  Where are our Shannon Hale experts.  Olmue...?
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SproutQ

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2008, 07:57 PM »
I'm wondering if six chapters is enough to establish a connection with a character so that he'll still be important in the next book... but not SO much of a connection that we're completely bereft and confused to leave him behind.

I think these are two different questions, and probably the second one is the more important one to tackle first.  If you look at the first book as a stand alone story, forgetting that there is a second one coming, is the character necessary to the story of just the first book?  Does the character's disappearance after six chapters make sense?  Does the book move on/wrap up in a satisfying way without him?  If so, then I think it's probably fine to lose him, and to bring him back in the second one, which is, after all, a whole different book.  If not, if the story in the first one doesn't work with him there, then regardless of what happens in the second book, I think he needs reworked.

Hope that helps,
Jacqui


m.pritchett

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2008, 08:45 AM »
In Twilight, Jacob Black, one of the main characters in the series, is introduced in the first book, but after that he's pretty much gone.

Hope that helps!

Offline Tabitha

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #15 on: May 17, 2008, 11:17 AM »
True, but he was a peripheral character until the second book.  It'd be a bit harder to do this with the love interest of a main character, simply because he's her love interest and obviously an important part of her life.

I'm with Jacqui on this one.  I'd look long and hard at whether his presence is essential to the story in the first book.  If it is, then I'd make sure that the parting brings good resolution.  Perhaps a simple reunion at the end of the story?  Or the promise of one?

Without knowing the story or the characters, all this speculation is really hard...  :)  But I hope you're getting something out of us.

Tabitha

Offline olmue

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #16 on: May 18, 2008, 07:16 AM »
Unfortunately the thing with the Bayern books is that while the same characters are in them, each book stars a different focal character. So I don't think it's quite the same situation.

You mean D, right? Since he's tied to the people your MC ends up spending the story with, I don't think it would be hard to leave him at the point I read to and then occasionally have his cousin mention him, or have him come up in conversations instigated by others, as long as you don't get him too involved in the action of the first book. Ie, keep him as background description. Then when we meet him in book 2, we'll go, oh yeah, I recognize that guy--he was the nice one. And hey, there's much more to him than we thought, and maybe we should get to know him a whole lot better!

Offline Susan

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #17 on: May 19, 2008, 07:17 AM »
Doesn't it depend on whether Book 1 will appear to be a stand-alone? If so, all the story arcs have to feel complete at the end of Book 1.

If that's the case, I second the suggestion to look at the Jacob Black character in Twilight.

It's a long time since I read Twilight, but I read it as a stand-alone. As I recall, Jacob plays a major role in only one episode maybe 30% into the story--but he provides major clues to the whole mystery and history behind the novel's plot. Then he drops into the background (or maybe even disappears altogether), and I at least didn't miss him.   

That sounds a lot like the description of your "drop-out." 

In Twilight, Jacob Black is tied to a particular (remote) place and a particular function, and when that place is departed and the function served, we don't expect more of the character. (Think of Jacob Black in Vogel's Hero's Journey terms: he's a Herald figure, who serves one vital purpose and is gone.)

But imagine Meyer having to introduce Jacob as a brand-new character in her second book. That would have seemed like deus ex machina. So while you are worried about your character "dropping out," I'm actually warning you against springing him on us in Book 2!

This boils down to my two suggestions:

1) If Book 1 is clearly only a Part 1--you will have one or more story arcs left unresolved at the end of Book 1, so you can have one for this "drop-out" character, too. Have the MC think about him, almost run into him again--or even loathe him (in traditional romance style).

2) If Book 1 needs to stand alone--make sure the "drop-out" is primarily a functionary who truly drops out after he serves his function. (It's easier if the character is tied to a location that is not revisited in the course of the story.) You won't leave readers feeling that he's an arc you neglected to resolve. Nor will his reappearance jar us in Book 2. 

Offline Tabitha

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #18 on: May 19, 2008, 08:10 AM »
It's a long time since I read Twilight, but I read it as a stand-alone. As I recall, Jacob plays a major role in only one episode maybe 30% into the story--but he provides major clues to the whole mystery and history behind the novel's plot. Then he drops into the background (or maybe even disappears altogether), and I at least didn't miss him.   

That sounds a lot like the description of your "drop-out." 

In Twilight, Jacob Black is tied to a particular (remote) place and a particular function, and when that place is departed and the function served, we don't expect more of the character. (Think of Jacob Black in Vogel's Hero's Journey terms: he's a Herald figure, who serves one vital purpose and is gone.)

True, but in book 1 Jacob was never Bella's love interest.  He was interested in her, but she wasn't interested in him.  So it's easy to have no further expectations from him.  But if she'd been romantically interested in him and they had been an item...it would have been much harder for him to drop out of the story because we would have further expectations from him.

I think it's the love thing that's making this so sticky. 

Tabitha

Offline olmue

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #19 on: October 13, 2010, 11:03 PM »
Just coming back to this long-ago thread to say that it worked very well. A useful item that gets used in important scenes and linked with the name of the character in question was the perfect solution. Also, the fact that he's the nicest of all the eligible characters makes you want to see more of him.

He'd just better come back in the next book!

Offline Ree

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #20 on: October 14, 2010, 04:36 AM »
The reader doesn't have to know how important the character will be until the next book. When they meet the character again, it will be a pleasant surprise when they get to know them. I think a connection to the character in the first book is important though.

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Offline Laura Manivong

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #21 on: October 14, 2010, 06:42 AM »
Hahaha! I read this post thinking it was recent, and went what the heck??? Another trilogy ALREADY??? Then I thought it sounded very familiar and finally got a clue, but how cool to read this after the fact!
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Offline Aimee W.

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #22 on: October 14, 2010, 07:18 AM »
Hahaha! I read this post thinking it was recent, and went what the heck??? Another trilogy ALREADY???

HA! Me too, until you pointed out the date. Very cool.
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Offline ecb

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Re: Leaving characters behind... and coming back to them later
« Reply #23 on: October 14, 2010, 03:12 PM »
Hee...

Thanks, Rose! We ended up working pretty hard on striking the right balance, so that Durrel's brief storyline in Book 1 feels complete, and I think that was the key: making sure if you do leave an important character behind (and don't come back) that there's a complete story arc there: a reason the character is in this book, an emotional/plot thread that builds and then resolves, and lastly a solid scene of closure to round out that character's brief appearance... all while setting things in motion for Book 2. :)
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