Character Recurrence in Novels

Something I’ve noticed when reading old Charles Dickens novels is that many stories of his have some character who appears early but is gone after a few chapters. They’re named but they’re not really important, and they disappear and are forgotten soon after.

And then 80% of the way through the story they return, out of nowhere, and it’s mentioned they knew this one character from the beginning of the story. Does this happen in stories anymore? I’m particularly thinking of Dickens stories that take place over a character’s whole life, which is actually probably most of them, but this is something I tend to notice a lot in Dickens books but not so much in more modern tales.

It’s an interesting part of stories. I’m holding things like this in reserve for the Cloudy Cuckoo Cosmos as a series, though that’s over multiple books where a character who appeared in one might appear unexpectedly in another, and that’s more notable for full-series readers than having a character return in a single book.

What started me thinking on characters returning within a single book was a chapter I was editing recently. My original draft had the main character meeting with some unnamed characters for a conversation just for a bit of world building, but there really wasn’t anything to it. As I’ve been working on a lot of story notes regarding characters related to where this meeting took place, I realized a couple characters who’d appeared earlier could easily appear instead, connecting the world and time in the story more. These don’t appear at the beginning–not until more than halfway through, in fact–but it’s still a bit of an “oh yeah, them!” moment.

The weird thing about Wandering Fortunes as you can see with what chapters I’ve put up is the second half is a different planet. With an entirely different setting, there’s not much call for characters from the first half coming back. My fourth book will be a little like that too, in fact. But in future books this happenstancing of old character return meetings is something I might experiment with. It’s probably easier both to do and make significant if it’s planned from the outset, and I do write outlines before I write stories, but in the case of Wandering Fortunes the meeting was both added in the editing phase and spur of the moment.

Character Creation: Random Element and Character Interaction

(what am i actually doing this okay here we go)

CHARACTER CREATION! For most, this is no mere hypothetical. The Latin Alphabet is composed of 27 characters… or is it 26? 14?? I don’t know. But this is irrelevant. I am referring to characters in a story. Most stories have them. Stories that don’t exist may even have them. Stories that don’t exist as well. These two sentences are saying different things. Where am I going with this? WELL. Even the shortest, saddest story has characters, even if some of them are dead. Do baby shoes count as characters? Well, that depends on what kind of story you’re writing. Has anyone ever written from the POV of the baby shoes?

Longer, more involved stories, novels particularly, have a lot more characters, some of them even named! These characters are usually dealt with for so long that some backstory is in order. Sometimes it’s as simple as where they were raised; other times it’s a dark and brooding history of death and loss and that’s why they have this scar and this edgy haircut and wear a mask.

But in my case, I don’t just don’t have involved stories, I have an involved figgin universe. Lord of the Rings had a lot of history and only a few books. Discworld had over 40 novels and quite a bit of backstory, but I’m not sure how much. I forget if Rincewind’s parents are ever mentioned. But many writers, especially of a series with multiple books, write more backstory than ever gets mentioned in books. Having all this solidified lets the writing be more consistent; you won’t have a character mention their childhood on the farm and then in a later book we meet their high-profile business consultant parents. No, you decide early on their parents are owners of a taco stand, and you stick to that. Well, unless you come up with something better later, but then you have to make sure it doesn’t contradict what you have written into books, unless you just don’t care, because honestly, are we sure most readers are gonna care?

Anyhoo, how does character creation work? Well, you start out with a setting and generally have an idea of what kind of character you need. Meek accountant? Beefy accountant? Clownish accountant? Someone who’s not an accountant?? Maybe a small business owner who shows kindness to the protagonist, or a small business owner whose churlish attitude just shows them further how dismal the city they’ve arrived at is. A military general to fight in a war, or a cool kid friend to balance the nerdy friend. There’s lots of characters to choose from, and the general idea isn’t that hard to start from. Then you do a whole bunch of stuff like names and design that I don’t want to talk about today. I am going to touch on it, though. Because:

RANDOM DECISIONS: So the thing is that in real life a lot of peoples’ information is arbitrary. Not always–names might change based on who their parents are, date of birth might make when events in their life happen different, gender probably changes stuff. But for the most part a character can have any number of these things and still basically be the same. How do you decide? Um I just pull up a random number generator and let it decide for me. Names I’ll usually look at a list of names and choose one at random but like, date of birth? Random number. Gender? Random number (and yes, that’s on a spectrum–depending on the number, this character may be trans!) Do you need glasses? WELL YOU DON’T GET TO CHOOSE IN LIFE IF YOU NEED GLASSES, SO I WON’T CHOOSE FOR THESE CHARACTERS. Maybe. I have different species and some have naturally better eyesight. Maybe better eyecare is available for the affluent? You know, I use random number generation but still pull things in various directions.

And then there’s character interactions. Characters interact with other characters, usually, and having a backstory means they meet other characters. Once again I use a random number generator to go through my list of existing characters and find out–have they met in the past? If so, when? From this I get a clearer idea of a character’s history. (And in one case got a potential short story idea for the future!) Once I know who they’ve met I determine who they’ve met long enough to get an opinion or history with, and then–you guessed it–RANDOM NUMBER GENERATION. I get a random number, and the better the number, the better their relationship.

So for example, a group of senior generals for a kingdom’s military. Get a variety of personalities, some good, some bad. Maybe use RNG for this, maybe not. One of the generals is a nice guy, very jovial, everyone loves them and they’re one of the most personable generals. They have a family, they’re well-known and respected, and then as you’re grabbing random numbers to determine their relationship to characters they’ve met their spouse rolls a ONE. This loved character has the worst possible relationship with their spouse.

And so that’s how a well-respected, noble, adored general is secretly beating their spouse.

Not all is well in random number generation land. Sometimes it makes characters and settings harder–harder to figure out, harder to write. But realistically? I think adding the random element makes it more real. And it adds another dimension to a character and their history that wasn’t there before.

I mentioned characters meeting other characters in their past, and I’m actually going to talk about that more next week. After all, once you’ve put all this work into a character, why only use them once?

New Wandering Fortunes chapter up! Chapter 10: A Place for the Placeless

Here’s chapter ten of Wandering Fortunes! This brings us to the end of the first quarter of this story and about halfway through the first part. This chapter introduces a lot of new friends! With a place to stay found in New Zhopolis, Alden, Top, and Ropak meet their new housemates. Some ignore them, some are enthusiastic, and some are mysterious. Also, one of them says memes. You’ve been warned.

As it turns out, three of the characters introduced in this chapter are inspired by characters of my friends Paperlanty, Devon, and Darvo “Cthulhuigi” Prower. (Sheesh.) Try to guess which ones! Or don’t. I can’t tell you what to do.

Also something new with this chapter is a new design for the chats between Duth and Wally. Instead of having their name followed by a colon and then what they say, their text is on a separate paragraph. Not sure how good it looks online, but it looks a lot better in regular text.

Final work on completing Darmenzi has begun. It’ll still be a little while before I’m done, but I’m hoping to be able to release this book in December. You know, so people can buy it for Clichemas. Obviously. As a reminder, not only do patrons of my Patreon get the serialized chapters half a month early, but when Darmenzi releases you’ll get a copy of the ebook. Not only that, but if you give $3 or more you’ll receive a copy of the ebook a whole month in advance! Then you can see how amazingly it has improved from what I posted online last year.

Chapter 9 of Wandering Fortunes is up!

Chapter 9: No Hobo features the first kind clerpson our friends encounter in New Zhopolis. At least, let’s hope he turns out to be friendly–it’s hard to trust anyone in a big city like this. At the bottom of the city, though, depressed and alone, it seems he may be their way to make it in the city. Or at least live in it. Also features the sudden appearance of another character, a strange-looking one whose appearance raises even more questions than Top’s look does. Well, those questions will keep coming next chapter, so whatever.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet, but I got some information from my editor and soon it will finally be time to charge full steam ahead on finishing Darmenzi! Yes, that’s still a thing that’s going to happen! Kind of crazy to think it’s been nine months since its last chapter was posted on here, but it’s been edited to be way better and I hope I can get this out before the year’s end! (If not, I may very well shoot for two years to the day after the second edition of Slubes released.) I’ve never been strong on the advertising front, but I hope to change that. oh no

And remember, I have a Patreon where you can read these new chapters half a month early. Chapter 10 will come in mid-September. Plus, you can get a free ebook copy of Darmenzi a month before the final release!

oh and you can make a word mandatory to appear on my website, more on that later

Chapter 14 of Darmenzi, Solid Stone Will, now up

Here‘s chapter 14 of Darmenzi, which brings us to an area first shown in Slubes but never actually traveled to. It also features bush animals and a puzzle.

In related news, I finished the main editing of the last chapter of Darmenzi yesterday, so now it’s time to go back and do wider edits such as tightening the character arcs and insert other words here that makes it sound like I know what I’m doing. I hope to have that done by mid-June if not end-May.

As always there is my Patreon, where patrons can read these chapters early and get expectations!! Are they great expectations? Well, they’re not bad.

March 10th, 2016: Slubes Release Date

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Can you tell which one is the new edition?

How about now?

Suddenly update!

I have been super busy the last couple months, but all through the busy I’ve been editing Slubes, making for double busy. The first busy is starting to wind down, though, and I’m about 80% through with this edit of Slubes, after which I do one final read-through and then boom it’s time to get cracking on putting it through the process of making it a book. This I hope to work on in January and February, so I might have an announcement come then.

Speaking of those two months, my dayjobwork will continue until at least the end of January most likely. At that point I’m going to try and actually be “furloughed” aka “we don’t have enough work for you” aka “i wanna vacation”. At that point I can try to be more active around here! Who knows what the future could bring. Chocolate-covered celery? Maybe!

New Darmenzi chapter 8, Faulty Alliance

I’ve been sick the past couple days, so this is up a day late. I’m feeling mostly better, still kinda mucusy and coughing and I’m sure after dayjob today I’ll feel lousy but I guess that’s the price for capitalism: always feelin’ lousy.

Anyway, chapter 8: a critical chapter in the story. Deals are made, lost, won, and purple. The gamebook is stabbed a few times. Things get heavy, or at least heavier, or at least havier, or at least haviless. Somebody’s angry! And nobody knows what to dooooo. Dead end, the end, the star got stuck in a wall.

Just read it before I have to make more of these ridiculous remarks. As always, my Patreon is a thing that may someday help me live off writing, which will make being sick less of a problem because I won’t have to talk to people all day. (Seriously, sore throat makes that impossible.)

Lastly, I’ve started editing Slubes for the final version; being sick kinda put a halt to that, but I’ll get back to it this week and try to push through while dayjob is forcing overtime and did I mention Patreon yet? I did? Okay. I should have information on the final release of Slubes by the end of the year–not an exact release date, I don’t think, but a pretty good idea.

New Character Profile and Late Status Update

Chee has an entry on the character section of the site now. She is angry and a jerk and has announced her bid for Republican nomination for president of the USA. Except not that last part. “Non-citizen-status”, you know? So far the two characters added to that section since Darmenzi started also appeared in Slubes.

Speaking of Slubes, I’ve recently gotten an email back from my editor on Slubes, and she has finished. I’ve been going through it recently; there’s more work ahead, but the conclusion is getting closer. If I can release it in the first quarter of 2016, I’ll be happy. And not only because I have a buffer on Darmenzi chapters to the end of March.

Speaking of nothing related to what I was talking about, tomorrow starts the busy season at my day job. aaaaaaa

And finally, Patreon!! It’s still a thing, always a thing, and I’m about to post chapter 8 half a month early for people who give me money because they’re impatient. Wait, did I just insult people who become a patron for that? What I meant to say was… definitely not that.

Hey, guess what I forgot to do?

Next Slubes part. Only one more left. This new one features the final agent of The Conqueror, one left unmentioned on this site’s character page.

Gourd, I need to find some way to exist without having a day job. Between that and novel work… it’s not going to kill me, but I definitely suspect my brain is somehow becoming desynced with the regular flow of time.

And there’s stuff I’ve been wanting to do and I just haven’t because everything else takes everything out of me.

And I’m not even doing anything at my day job. It’s just that eight or so hours every day leaves me with SO LITTLE TIME FOR ACTUAL WORK

I guess what I’m saying is, I’m wiping out several acres of forest printing out Slubes so I can work on it at my day job, and very soon I’ll be doing that for the next book because I’m not done with Slubes but in two months I’ll start putting up Darmenzi on here. Unless I take a month off. We’ll see.