Combining Characters

There are two (or more) minor characters in your story, each has a little bit of a quirk, but they do very similar things. You like each of them, but you don't love either one. Combining characters is a way to get a better, tighter, more efficient story. The first question is should you? The second question is how to? Let's break those ideas into separate components.

A quick checklist of should you: Combine characters if...they are minor, it will make a better story, you can combine quirks to get a more memorable characters, or it consolidates concerns into one mouthpiece character. Answer yes to two or more of these questions and seriously consider going ahead with your plan.

A few quick tips of how to combine characters:

  • combine quirks into one sensible character
  • change all names involved into one single name
  • use the "find" option in your word processor, and use it to go to every scene involving the each replaced character. 
  • I like to copy the scene into a new blank document, use the find feature, and then rewrite what is necessary
  • make sure all of the pronouns and verbs agree. For example, if both characters are in a sentence make sure the verb changes from plural to single or they goes to he/she if appropriate.
  • Make sure the quirkiness shows up
  • Make the interactions memorable
And that's it! It seems simple, but the real trick is in the execution. Yes, combining characters does require carefully going through every scene and making sure you've caught them all, but it is well worth it to get a better story. This is one of hardest, most time consuming parts of editing, revising and rewriting. Once you've conquered this, you're well on your way to having a very good novel.


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