Sometimes, You Have to Give Your Characters the Axe

By: Ebonye Gussine Wilkins

When you take ten years to produce a novel, it’s unlikely that the end result looks anything like the first draft. I remember when I was nearly done writing the first draft of Somewhat Close To Normal, I got feedback that I should start the book earlier in time. When I did that, I decided to overhaul the novel, and I had to remove a few characters. Because it became a new novel, a handful of the old characters didn’t fit anymore. They were part of a story, but they weren’t part of the story I was choosing to tell.

When should you remove characters from your novel? You might considering taking them out when:

  • They aren’t telling the same story
  • They don’t get along with your other characters (plot, not personality)
  • They are unintentionally flat
  • They aren’t adding any real value to the writing
  • You’re so sick of them you don’t put any more effort into them
  • You realize that you no longer care about them

Sometimes it might be several characters that have to go, sometimes it’s only one. It really depends on what you need to make your story the best one. But don’t get too attached to them, or you might have to kill your darlings.

Have you ever had to remove a character from a story? Why or why not?

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