Writing Characters with Purpose

I have a love/hate relationship with books that have large casts of characters. I love getting to know so much of the world, but when too many of them are shoved in the same room or chapter, my brain has a hard time keeping up.

Characters should never be throwaway ideas. They should contribute something to your story. Take Peeves from the Harry Potter series as an example. Many of the ghosts provide information and history of the world, but Peeves and his crazy antics often provide a way for Harry to sneak around and avoid Filch’s detection. It is a small addition to the story but it is important.

Characters do not always need to matter in the big picture sense, they can serve purposes in their individual scenes, so long as they serve some purpose.

The more page time your characters have the more they should contribute to the story on a larger scale.

Prominent characters should not only move the plot along, they should also influence and comment on the theme. Their influence on the main character’s journey can be symbolic or have a direct impact.

A large cast of characters can often lead to plot bunnies, an overpopulation of ideas that seem to get away from you. Keep the thread of your story in the forefront of your mind while you make new characters and ask yourself what purpose they serve before choosing to add them, or replace them with an existing character.

Originally posted on September 6, 2021 @ 12:00 pm

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Published by J. M. Tuckerman

J.M.Tuckerman is a neurodivergent writer with a big education. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, an MA in Writing, and a BA in Writing Arts (specializing in Creative Writing, New Media Writing, and Publication; concentrating in New Media Production), which she somehow managed to earn despite her three very loud and large dogs. Jessica was lucky enough to intern at Quirk Books and Picador, USA while earning her master’s degrees. Her service dog, Ringo, is very proud of all that she has accomplished and hopes to be on a back cover of a published book with her very soon. An avid reader, writer, and lover of young adult and middle-grade literature, Jessica’s bookshelf is overflowing with hardbacks, paperbacks, and a million half-filled notebooks. She is a proud fur-mommy to two lab/st-bernard littermates, a retriever-mix service dog, and one orange little hobgoblin cat, all of whom have made very audible appearances on the Booked All Night podcast.

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