The Character that Got Away

Intimate moment - Witzel photoIn the mind of a writer, the character that got away lingers like the shadow of what might have been, the road not travelled, the life one never lived. Definitely a whopper of a fish. We don’t forget, for once writers bring characters to life, those characters – regardless of whether they ever appear on the written page – are real to us.

Couple on beach - Witzel photo

I know of what I speak. In The Light Never Lies, Bethany has a crisis of meaning after her near drowning at the end of Disappearing in Plain Sight. This leads to her desire to have a baby. Earlier versions of the novel had her successful in her wishes. The baby was a boy and they named him Caleb. For a number of reasons, this baby didn’t work out but I still hanker after that child.

A character named Alison, a new career counsellor for Micah Camp, hit the cutting room floor during edits for The Light Never Lies and Chasing Down the Night. Imagine getting cut twice! She simply has to make it into the next Crater Lake novel. I can’t bear to look in her eyes otherwise.

University of Arizona - Witzel photo

I started out with a list of about fifteen core characters for The Jennerville Women’s Chamber of Commerce – a possible next writing project. The other day, I got out a big sheet of paper and did some town planning. What fun to map out your own town. But there has been one major drawback – I now have a list of twenty core characters and an additional list of possibilities as long as my arm. The only way all of these character stories can be told is if this new book turns into a few trilogies. I suspect there will be many more characters that get away – for now!

For some, the idea of investing time and energy in characters that may never make the final cut is not a great production strategy. To those naysayers,  I throw up my hands and shout – but wait, writing fiction isn’t supposed to be efficient and it can never be straightforward. This is a winding path, a circuitous route, a process that requires an abundance of material upon which the author may draw in order to get the job done. Or in other words, tell the story.

I’d love to open up a discussion on the issue of characters that didn’t quite make the final cut. How do you deal with them? Are they gone for good or just waiting in the wings for a moment to grab centre stage?

Witzel photo 1

I do keep threatening – this fellow just has to end up in a novel one day. There is too much character in that face to resist.