First draft characters

Everybody say hi to Ludovic.

Hiii, Ludovic.

Actually, this is French actor Jean Reno, whom I love and adore, but that is besides the point, mainly because every time I see his face I see a fictional character. A fictional character that I created. Ooookay. Moving on.

Ludovic burst into Privateer completely unplanned (literally, he just popped in during a bar fight, guys. A bar fight), and happened to fit rather nicely… for a couple of chapters. Unfortunately his part is currently dwindling, because I am finding it difficult to keep track of so many characters in my first draft. Have you ever written a character that you liked, but knew that they weren’t going to make the cut in the drafts to come? That’s sort of what it’s like writing Ludovic.

It’s like, he’s a nice guy, and I like him and everything, but I think we should just be friends.

I, like any writer/mother, have a special attachment to my characters, and I want them to thrive in their world, but the truth is… I made up Ludovic, and I don’t even know that much about him. Sometimes I wonder if I just put him into the story because I could, or if it was really because he was essential to the plot. He’s one of many characters in my first draft of Privateer (oh yes, trust me, there are plenty) that seem to be dead set on keeping himself out of the spotlight. He is a no-background-check-available character. He is an extra on set.

And most times I find myself thinking, Is this dude entirely necessary? 

I’ve heard it said that you should never dwell for too long on a character who pops in once and never comes back again. That may have been my first mistake. But then again, ***spoiler alert*** Ludovic doesn’t just “pop in once,” so that makes him semi-essential, right?


Probably not. But he’ll at least survive until the end of the first draft.

Okay, so I’m in denial. I just hit 90K words last night, which launched me into a state of delirium, and now I’m realizing that THE END IS NEAR. DING DONG THE WITCH IS ALMOST DEAD. I MIGHT ACTUALLY GET THROUGH THIS THIS SUMMER.

However, that means revision season is coming up… and I don’t even want to think about all the things I’m going to have to fix (*ahem* characters I’m going to have to cut). This, my friends, is the downside to putting your first drafts up for reads on the Internet—everybody else knows what you need to fix, too.

But don’t worry too much, Ludovic/Jean. Maybe you won’t get cut. Maybe you’ll just become more of a character. Maybe you’ll actually develop and have a better personality and just overall work with me in the coming revisions.

Or maybe I’ll cut you.

Because I can.

Samantha Chaffin


3 thoughts on “First draft characters

  1. deshipley says:

    Maybe you could combine Ludovic with another character who hasn’t been doing enough to merit continued existence alone. I dunno the situation, I’m just throwing out options.
    I had the unpleasant task of combining and cutting (and, in one tragic case, killing in the womb) characters for a recent book draft. Broke my heart, it did. …Well, not super-shattered broken; just damaged-enough-that-we’ve-got-to-mark-down-the-price broken. But it had to be done. It seemed every second or third chapter was introducing characters we wouldn’t see enough of later to make all that introduction worth it. My beta couldn’t keep track of all the names. FORGIVE ME, my pink-slipped babies! Believe that your sacrifices were not in vain!

    • samchaffin says:

      So coming back to read this post after 3 years is sort of surreal. Danielle, I totally took your advice. How crazy is that. Should have figured though, seeing as you are something of a genius.

      • deshipley says:

        Wowwwww, July of 2012. How can just the other year feel like forever ago? O_O But yaaay, Past Me, for having decent advice! Which is still totally relevant today, as Present Me pokes around with ideas for a plot that requires some character shuffling to ensure everyone on set pulls sufficient weight.
        *also LOLing at “just damaged-enough-that-we’ve-got-to-mark-down-the-price broken”* Past Me had jokes. XD

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