For the last week, I’ve been working on my “scroll” of the plotline and have pretty much mapped out the changes in the first draft—for now.
Here’s my question. Have you ever created a character whom you thought was relatively minor? He or she has appeared here and there in the story and even has had some speaking lines.
Then, suddenly, that character decides to take over? That’s what’s been happening with Professor Henry Callan this past week. Until now, he’s appeared in the second chapter and a few subsequent ones. Now he wants a much bigger part. What do you do?
Originally, the professor was intended to be a character who linked several others. Like friends on Facebook, he was a mutual friend of two of the main characters and so could bring the major players together. But now he wants more—a lot more.
Also, in going through the manuscript, I noticed that the professor’s nature seemed quite different at the beginning than at the end. He had changed. For me, that is always a clue that the character may be far more important than I originally suspected. The stock character who simply moves the furniture [or people from A to B] doesn’t need much attention. But when he changes, maybe that’s a sign that he has a lot more to say and do.
When I started looking into this change, I made a few discoveries. He’s much more than just a functionary. In fact he is the star of a minor plot. And if so, he needs to be developed. The first question I ask is—what is the purpose of that plot and how does this character carry out that purpose?
I always seem to need three plot lines:
1] To tell the main story
2] To comment upon or make the main plot more complex—or even resolve the first.
3] I always hope that the third will somehow contribute to the bringing together of the first and second plots.
In this story, Alexander Wainwright, protagonist of the Remembrance Trilogy and Britain’s finest landscape painter, is head to head with his new patron, Jonathan Pryde, who offers Alex a commission to work in stained glass. The second plot is about Alex’s friend, Peter Cummings, the winner of last year’s Man Booker Prize and his mother, Gloria, trapped in an home for the aged and struggling to get free.
As I think about Henry Callan, professor of philosophy, I think how can he grow into a role which will be relevant to the other two plots? Given the his feisty nature, I think it will be fun to make him grow into a new role.
And so, I’ve gone back to the drawing board and written down everything I can think about this character. I’ve gone through my “scroll” and found a few places where I should add a chapter or two. In fact, Professor Henry Callan has become so powerful that he has demanded a twin brother—and he will have one! Ronald Callan was “born” yesterday and is a professor of mathematics. Room to develop the idea of the good/evil twin dichotomy? Maybe so. A good week in the writing world.