The Recycled Character
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Today I blogged about using characters more than once, scattering background players through my different works.

The Recycled Character. (please drop by and leave a comment) and I thought it might make a nice discussion for our group.

I have mentioned before that almost everything I write takes place in the fictional town of New Grace, South Carolina.  It is a rather small community, about 20,000 residents.   Sometimes I find that when I am writing a scene and need to add a character to move it along I spend too much time getting into the details of the character.  

Spending time in my own town, about the same size, I realize I come across people more than once.  I am pretty sure these people have lives beyond what I see. So why shouldn’t my throwaway characters?  Why shouldn’t the woman who served the MC in Immune From Prosecution be the barrista who crosses path with a serial killer in a different series, or the MC police detective in my Rachel Shorte Mysteries investigate a crime that is not a central story point in a Reese Millridge story.  In real life, my town only has so many cops and coffee shops.

So my question to the group is how do you handle throwaway characters or do you just write down anything and never think of them again?





  • Good question, Michelle. I write a series and often find my minor characters showing up again when I hadn't planned on using them. I like it when that happens and I've learned to pay attention when they coming knocking. 

  • Hello JC

    Welcome to the group.  

    I found myself the other day writing a character and the first thing I thought of was where else I could use her.  I grabbed the folder for a book three later in the series and fit her into a scene I had outlined.

    I think I might be getting carried away.

  • This subject made me immediately think of Stephen King... His novels are a great example of how parts and pieces of a particular location (and the residents within it) can be congruous, even when the actual storylines are quite varied from book to book.

    I love the idea of recurring tertiary characters! It fleshes things out, for me...makes the world I'm creating seem actual and multi-layered, rather than just a flat prose landscape coupled with a story arc. In my humble opinion, it is these sorts of things that really bring any writing to life.

    When you have managed to immerse yourself so fully into the location and cast of your story that you are doing research and creating backstory and motivation for a single character that shows up in only one scene of the book - it is then that you know you're absolutely on the right track.


  • I really like the idea of keeping "Throwaway characters."  While I tend to write poetry--some of my poems definitely contain background characters who may appear in another poem (again as a background character). 

    From what it sounds like--keeping the tertiary characters and having them pop up in different stories works really well, considering your work is based in a small town. It's a realistic notion-- that we (the reader who inhabits your town for the moment) and your characters would run into them at various points.