Identify and Delete Useless Characters
Useless characters can bog down a story and make it difficult for the reader to keep track of everybody. Today I’m going to discuss why a character might be useless and how to get rid of them.
When I say useless, I mean literally without use to the story. By all means, write characters who are worthless people as long as they serve some purpose to the story. That’s all it boils down to. Could the story progress in the same way if this character was gone? Does this character affect my main characters in a substantial way (enough to advance their development)? Does this character give a different perspective on a relevant issue? Does this character alter the main plot? Notice I used subjective phrases like “substantial way” or “relevant issue.” This means it’s ultimately up to you as the writer to determine the character’s use.
The easiest way to get rid of a useless character is to simply get rid of them. Delete them from each scene they are in. If they have a minor line of dialogue, give it to one of your mains or a nameless stranger in the scene. Once you have decided to get rid of the character, do it. Stop thinking about it. I know how hard it can be. You put effort into writing an interesting person, but he/she doesn’t advance the plot. Bye Bye.
The more difficult and less recommended way is to give the character purpose. This can only work if you have a useless character who fits the situation correctly.
Example: Bob wants to take Mildred out on a date. The writer introduces Mildred’s little brother Hank at the beginning of the story. If Bob takes Mildred on a date and the story never reaches back to the brother, Hank is useless and he’s got to go. But if Mildred is supposed to be babysitting Hank and ditches him to go out with Bob, the little brother gains a little more use. If Mildred feels bad for ditching Hank than the little brother’s purpose is to give the reader a glimpse into the little brother and older sister relationship. This allows the reader to share Mildred’s guilt for leaving Hank at home alone. Emotional depth. If your story has no need for Mildred to feel guilty, don’t make it happen. Hank has to go.
Horrible example. I know but you get the idea. The best thing to do is to not write a character unless you have a use for them ahead of time, but no writer is perfect. It’s bound to happen. I hope you enjoyed this and possibly learned something. Please leave a comment if you have a good useless character story. Something you wrote, something you read, or even a character you saw in a movie.