dont-forget-meThe problem with characters can be worrying that people won’t remember who they are. Unlike reading a novel it’s possible in serialised fiction that the reader won’t encounter secondary characters for weeks. And yet, just like writing any other fiction you don’t to give away too much too early to make them stand out. When I first mentioned Aubrey in dialogue it was tempting to add a few more lines to make the reference more noticeable. Is the story better because I didn’t? That’s for the reader to say, but I think I would’ve been less happy with more information early on.

Another temptation is to give the characters more to do when they first appear. I’ve been tempted to do that with Mrs Stapleton, Lot’s life is a little lacking in other women at this point I find, however this didn’t work because it didn’t feel right. It revealed too much about the character too early and it felt shoe horned in because, at this point, Charlotte and Mrs Stapleton don’t have the kind of relationship whether they would have prolonged conversations or interactions, unless they had to. Plus a lot of the time Charlotte is at home she is with Bran and their relationship makes Mrs Stapleton uncomfortable and Bran wouldn’t be comfortable having her float around in emotional scenes. Eventually I concluded that I simply have to move forward and hope the reader trusts that more will be revealed about Mrs Stapleton beyond her tendency to call Charlotte a ‘wicked slattern’.

Another problem I’ve had to resist is Charlotte interpreting people’s motivations correctly all the time and giving things away. Part of the temptation is the worry that by their next appearance the character, and the character hints will have been forgotten. I know why they’re doing what they’re doing and she’s always looking for an angle and always trying to work out theirs. This is part of the fun with an unreliable narrator though; early on in the series Charlotte said her relationship with Bran was common gossip, later on she discovers people really do assume she’s Bran’s young wife. Everything being filtered through her perspective offers the chance for incorrect assumptions about characters and situations that can muddy the waters and I decided this was okay. People make mistakes and so should Charlotte, rather than worrying about characters and their motivations being forgotten.

A final problem is forgetting characters myself, or thinking I have. Not completely, I hasten to add, but sometimes I realise that the character hasn’t appeared for a while and people might’ve forgot them. It took me a few of these moments to realise that it wasn’t so much that I’d ‘forgotten’ them as there wasn’t anything for them to do in the story and I didn’t want to force them into it any more than in a novel. Perhaps I’ll get to the end and decide, in retrospect, I could’ve put in a few more episodes that they could’ve appeared in, and if that happens I’ll deal with it then. But, although each episode is edited before it’s posted, not having a complete draft of the whole story to edit has its pitfalls and these just have to be dealt with. How probably won’t reveal itself until there is a complete draft to look at.

In the end I realised that I was going to have to trust that the reader would remember the characters and drop a few hints to remind them if they don’t.


For more writing advice see my Advice Page. To read the serial see the Weekly Serial page.

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