Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Very Special Characters

All the characters in a well-written story are “special” or they wouldn’t be there–each has their part to play, minor or major.

Major characters often determine plot elements and most writers build the story around them. That last sentence may seem obvious but I’ve read books that have been rewritten from a different character’s point of view yet kept the same plot elements and flow. Check out Ender’s Shadow as one example.

Minor characters often are radically changed as the writing of a book proceeds (Majors can be, too, but that “usually” changes the plot structure); yet, these secondary folk can sometimes surprise a writer.

Take the character Morna, an artificial intelligence, in my recently published book, Notes from An Alien.

I thought she would only be in the first chapter. She soon changed my mind and became, if not a major character, a recurring significant character. In fact, the last words of the book are hers.

I even ended a blog post with those words and, for those interested, you may want to read, How I Had To Change Myself In Order To Write My Book…, to explore how much of an author ends up in a book’s plot and characters

So, we’ve touched on minor, significant, and major characters. What about Very Special Characters?

The book, Sophie’s World, by Jostein Gaarder has characters that could be considered Meta–they actually begin considering their place in the book and ponder its plot.

Sena Quaren, the “co-author” of Notes from An Alien, steps out of the story and asks the reader to consider if the book is truth or fiction.

The bulk of Notes from An Alien happens in another star-system and almost all the characters have no knowledge of Earth, yet Sena’s daughter, Ararura, writes the last chapter and speaks directly to the Earth-bound reader.

Have you come across any Very Special Characters in your reading?

Have you created any or do you think you might?

Can you imagine other classes of Very Special Characters?

Please, do share your thoughts and experience in the comments :-)

[ Edit: check out the follow-up post—Very Special Characters ~ Revisited ]
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14 responses to “Very Special Characters

  1. Karla Telega June 19, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I guess all my characters are special to me. I wasn’t able to kill one of my characters in my mystery, as originally planned. I just couldn’t imagine finishing the book without him. Even though my two main characters are different from each other, there’s some of me in both of them. I’m bringing back a minor character from the first book to play a larger role in the second. It just felt like she had unfinished business at the end of the first book.


    • Alexander M Zoltai June 19, 2011 at 6:34 pm

      I think, Karla, if a book is “well-written” (which I think any book by you would be), every character will be special, in their own right and in terms of the plot.

      I truly love the way characters can “speak” to an author :-)


  2. Simone Benedict June 20, 2011 at 1:12 am

    I’ve always enjoyed it when a character takes over where the story is going. It can also be very frustrating at times. I really like the protagonist in Rand’s “The Fountainhead.” He’s a special character. Come to think of it, a lot of special characters in novels come to mind.


  3. Simone Benedict June 20, 2011 at 2:28 am

    Yes, that is the perfect word! I’ve been working with a character somewhat like him. Perhaps working with Sena was somewhat similar? She isn’t like Roark in characteristics at all except the being in charge part, maybe while you were collaborating with her?


    • Alexander M Zoltai June 20, 2011 at 3:06 am

      Sena has always been extremely real to me. All my characters are real but Sena is “up a level”.

      The collaboration was real too.

      Notice how, even though Sena is technically a fictional character, I don’t put quotation marks around the word real??


      • Simone Benedict June 20, 2011 at 3:37 am

        Your comment then makes me think of another very special character in the book “The Velveteen Rabbit”. As the stuffed rabbit was made real by a boy’s love in that story, writers and readers can make the characters real in the same way. A bit “sappy” maybe, but I think it’s true.


  4. Pingback: Author Interview: Rick Godejohn author of Time In Eternity | Books in the News

  5. Pingback: Very Special Characters ~ Revisited « Notes from An Alien

  6. Pingback: This Page Intentionally Blank « Notes from An Alien

  7. Bill Jones August 4, 2011 at 11:55 am

    I hadn’t thought of this, but yes. On a lark, I created abnormally smart bunnies (with a “twist” I’ll save for readers of the book). Like yours, they were meant for the 1st chapter. I liked them so much, they evolved, and became a humorous thread in the book — even developed the ability to talk.


  8. Pingback: Characters Who Make Writers Change Their Minds . . . | Notes from An Alien

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