Lesson Twenty-Five from a Manuscript Red Line: Bullying for Bully’s sake

“Having a bully for the sake of having a bully is a contrived way of injecting conflict.”

Well, I don’t think I can say it any better than the publisher’s quote above.

There was a bully in the Gold Mine Manuscript that really had no concrete tie to the main plotline.  His only reason for being in the story was to have a bully in the Main Character’s “normal” life.

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?  You can also click “Rant Worthy Topics” in my right navigation bar.  Choose “Gold Mine Manuscript” to see all the lessons to date.

Knowing a little about the plotline after “book one” I do know that the “bully” would have a little more of a role, but overall, he was never really integral to the plot.  The author has even mentioned that although she was sad about it, the removal of this character was actually fairly easy.

Why?  Because nothing he did was deeply tied into the main plot.  When he was gone, the main plot was still solid, and he wasn’t even missed.  In fact, after reading a partial re-write a month or so ago… I have to admit that the story is even tighter without him.

Take a look at each character in your novel and ask yourself.  “How does this character drive the plot forward?”

If you have to make excuses for why the character is there, it is time to re-think them.

Yes, I know this is hard.  I have three in my own story, but I need them for later novels, and I don’t want them to just magically appear.

1. Tome, is the main character’s roommate, but a stand-by and watch character.

2. Kilet is integral to a few scenes but is replaceable.

3. Brandon  is only in one scene that does nothing to draw the main story forward (although it does draw a side-plot forward.  He will make another one-scene appearance in book two, and then he is a very important character in books three and four.)

I did cut down Kilet to a very brief background role by replacing his “lines” with a more major character, but the other two characters are still there.

I know, I know.  Yes, I know what you are thinking…  I am just admitting the mistakes that I KNOW I am making.  The Brandon scene is tied into Matt cutting his hair, and if you’ve been reading for a while, you know how I feel about that scene.  That is why Brandon is still there.

Yeah, I struggle with this stuff, too.


11 responses to “Lesson Twenty-Five from a Manuscript Red Line: Bullying for Bully’s sake

  1. Pingback: Lesson Thirty from a Manuscript Red Line: Finale! Summing it all up | Jennifer M Eaton

  2. I usually take a pass at cutting characters when I’ve finished the first draft. You know me and my handy dandy spreadsheet. It use it to keep track of why a character is in my novel. If there isn’t a good reason, off they go. . .

  3. I had a discussion about this with a friend the other day. He had a secondary character and needed to choose either to enrich this character with purpose and details or get rid of him. He chose to enrich and make his role integral to plot. I didn’t know all of this before I read my friend’s MS. I thought this character was one of my favorites.

  4. Sometimes I think writers don’t realise how easy it is to cut out characters that don’t add anything to the story. Same goes for plot details that aren’t pushing things in the right direction or any direction whatsoever. Itit can it be done- often comes easily once we’ve seen the light and it will make our MS stronger! – But I think it’s one of those things we have to be forced to do a couple of times before we stop freaking out at the suggestion:) Great post!

  5. Love this – so helpful! And BTW, love the graphics and especially your signature – love it! 🙂

  6. It’s fun to read these goldmine comments and see what this editor didn’t like about the manuscript. Great post! ❤

  7. Marie Gilbert

    very informative

  8. MAJOR question (disguised as a comment)…

    This hits right were I’m working, Jennifer. It’s Contemporary Single Title Romance (w/humor hits *surprise*)., At a recent writer’s meet, I was told by the session leader that ALL books need a BIG BAD ANTAGONIST, an external villain that both hero/heroine must defeat by ticking-clock-time or face dire consequences.

    I get that for Romantic Suspense.

    But, conflicting opinions suggest that, in romance, the antagonist is often the hero–the person who forces the biggest change on the MC. My MC has a secret she withholds until the end. The Black Hole Moment secret. Repressed emotions/failure to be “real”, including the secret, are the ticking bomb throughout.

    I know those details do not a beta read make, but ask anyway. CAN that be enough? Or, do I need to add a thread (correction, bold, strong twine) of a villain?

    • I don’t think the villain always has to be a person, or a big ugly monster. (Although big ugly monsters are just so much fun to write!)

      There needs to be a catalyst for conflict though… and it needs to be tangible. Now, what I mean by tangible, is that it has to have meaning to everyone who read it.

      Conflict can always come from within, but you need to be very careful with that. It is much easier for a reader to relate running from the lion about to eat the main character, then it will be to relate to an inner conflict that is not effecting the world around them.

      My concern for you… without reading it… is if she is holding the secret until the end, then the reader will not even know there is a conflict in the story.

      A story without conflict is going to die a slow and painful death. 😦

      I am currently reading a romance novel that does not have any conflict. Well, it does, but it is contrived, and I think the author inserted this dumb villain character (two of them, in fact) “just for the sake of the bully”. Just sticking a conflict in there that does not work is not going to fly either.

      In other words… be careful, or you might have me tapping my head trying to decide how to review your novel “constructively” on my blog someday.

      (Oooooo… that author knows I am reading her book. I wonder if I am about to get a tweet?)

  9. Peter who? (Exit Peter…)

  10. Extraneous characters do slow down the plot. I’m glad I deleted mine. I liked my bad guy but he needed to do more than act as a catalyst. It took me a while to figure out how to have my MC be the one to make things happen, but once I figured it out, the story took off. All characters need to play a role. I agree. If they can be deleted and the story stays strong, get rid of them. They are just excess baggage weighing the story down. Anything that doesn’t push the plot forward, get rid of. It’s hard to do sometimes, but oh so important for the end result…publication.