Character Graveyard

One of my weaknesses as a writer is that I occasionally create wacky, compelling characters that ultimately don’t do anything but distract from the story. In every manuscript, I end up cutting at least one character and parceling out that character’s better lines out to other characters. So to honor these fallen literary heroes, I give you the Harper Character Memorial Garden.

 

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Here lies Ben from BETTER HOMES AND HAUNTINGS. Ben was conceived as a handsome contractor/love interest for Dotty.  But apparently having three couples in the book made it seem a little too much like SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS. Also, it turned out Ben wasn’t very interesting, so to the character graveyard he went.

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Here Lies “Dark Adam,” who was cut from the original draft of “Nice Girls Don’t Date Dead Men.”

Adam Morrow was originally conceived as a warm human counterpoint to Gabriel Nightengale’s dark, cool charm. He’s the typical small-town Golden Boy, bright, sunny and sweet as Mom’s apple pie. He never paid attention to Jane when she had a crippling crush on him in high school. But now that she’s undead and has a certain charisma, Adam is all about reconnecting with old school chums. Jane can’t help but feel flattered and just a little bit vindicated by his sudden attention, which makes her relationship with Gabriel more difficult.

In the original plan for “Dead Men” and the third book in the series, “Nice Girls Don’t Live Forever,” Adam took his interest in Jane and her new lifestyle to a new level. The disturbing level. He was turned into a vampire by the original ending of “Dead Men” and affected the full-on Lestat wardrobe and carefully applied eyeliner. He went on to seriously annoy Jane as an evil henchman in Book 3, never quite giving up his increasingly obsessive overtures toward her.

My agent, Stephany, and my editor, Jennifer, both tried to convince me that as a character, the original Adam was just icky. For one thing, any man that tried to wear leather pants in Kentucky’s ninety percent humidity would be laughed at, a lot. (And in need of some Gold Bond Powder.) Also, my mother, who gets to read my manuscripts before anyone else, hated his guts, but not in the good “JR Ewing, villain you love to hate” way.

After many, many e-mail discussions with Jennifer and Stephany, I conceded that Dark Adam was de-railing a good portion of the third book. He was returned to his human state and the “John Hinckley” factor was dialed back considerably, so he would be more appealing. His henchman duties were re-assigned.

If we can learn anything from this memorial, it’s that when your agent and editor tell you REPEATEDLY during the writing process that a character is unappealing and creepy, you should just listen to them.

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Here lies Maybelline Lavelle, sister to Zeb Lavelle from the Jane Jameson series.

Maybelline was supposed to be a featured player in “Nice Girls Don’t Date Dead Men.” She was supposed to seethe while Mama Ginger doted on Jane and called her “the daughter I always wanted.” And she had inherited Mama Ginger’s flair for dramatic plays for attention. The wedding events were to be punctuated with Maybelline having faked fainting spells and other contrived dramas, which were to add some comic effect from Zeb’s side of the family.

My friend and beta-reader, Brandi, convinced me that I was going a little bit too far and it made more sense for Zeb to be an only child.

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Here lies Ellie Vernon, sister to Lacey from AND ONE LAST THING…

Ellie was originally intended as a fraternal twin sister to Emmett, Lacey’s brother. She and Emmett finished each other’s snarky sentences. She had marital problems of her own, which she projected onto Lacey’s situation and doled out heavy-handed, annoying advice.

Ellie sort of complicated the dialogue-heavy scenes and her marriage issues bogged the story down. Other than turning up at Lacey’s cabin and getting our main character blind stinking drunk, she didn’t do much. It turns out when you give a character one sibling who serves a plotting purposes, you don’t really need another. Ellie’s scenes were cut. Her lines were re-assigned to Emmett and she was interred in another sibling plot here at mollyharper.com.

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Here lies “Evil Gracie,” the bad twin version Cooper’s mom in HOW TO FLIRT WITH A NAKED WEREWOLF. Gracie was originally called Sarah and she was not a very nice person. She treated Cooper in the same way Maggie, Cooper’s sister, treated Cooper- with anger, disdain and outright meanness. And my agent and editor said Cooper had too much familial female hate coming at him, and the fact that he kept taking it from them made him look weak. So Sarah was re-named Gracie, and she was made a rational, kind human being. It added balance to Cooper’s already grumpy family.