Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pink-Slipping a Character

So what do you do when you have to fire a character?

I don't mean getting rid of a character who's mean, unruly or just not what you want in the book. I can say, "Your FIRED!" just as easily as The Donald can. I'm talking about deleting a character who has done her job, been there as tireless supporting cast through countless edits and revisions already and who thought she had a future in the universe I created.

Now, due to budget cuts...well, actually due to the need to tighten a story, give rise to viable sequel and pick up the pacing of my novel, management is bandying about the idea of removing an entire secondary character.

I've already prepared the 'It's not you, it's me' speech, tried to temper it with, 'you've been a good character. There's really nothing wrong with your portrayal of one of the heroine's closest friends. It's just that there's really not room for you, so not only will your scenes end up on the cutting room floor, your dialogue may be rewritten and given to another character who will benefit greatly from your untimely demise.'

That's gotta be a harsh thing for a character to hear. And trust me, as an author, it's no picnic for me. It means serious rewriting to do, lots of work, and the ever-present concern that I'll have an unemployed character running through my head at odd moments asking if she's going to end up in another juicy role somewhere. Not only is this character losing her part, she's being escorted out of the 'green room' so to speak, where secondaries await their chance for the spotlight.

I feel bad for her. I'll do my best to find her another plot one of these days, but in all honesty, I think she really should look for another line of work, maybe commercials, or something in retail. It's a step down, I know, but we've all gotta do what we've gotta do.

Have you ever had to fire a character?


Jen said...

I have fired a character and it is hard, because at some point, in some draft, the poor person DID serve a purpose. Just know that her demise will strengthen the story.

As a side note: I also had a character commit suicide once just because I couldn't stand the actor who was playing him and I didn't want to give him any more stage time. I kept muttering "It's not you, it's him" to the character. Is that odd?

Bernadette Gardner and Jennifer Colgan said...

LOL, I suppose that's no more odd than me actually feeling bad for my character.

There should be a pill for this. The writing life is just too strange sometimes.