author, creative writing, writing

Ways to Reuse your Characters

Good morning creators of worlds! I hope you’ve all had a great week.

Mine has been typically full of non-creative pursuits, but all things that needed doing. I’m hoping to kick start September with a bit more productivity! I hope it’s going to be a great month for you all too. What’re your goals?

I want to talk today about reusing characters. In the context of characters from stories you’ve written/plotted in the past, that maybe weren’t quite up to scratch to pursue, even though the character was solid.

In the past, I have plotted novels/written scraps of them, with characters I have adored and felt confident in, and passionate about. And yet their story sucked, so there was no point wasting my time on them anymore…or was there? By reusing characters, I have managed to write strong stories with a cast, and characters I thought I’d never get to write about again. With that in mind, I’d like to share the following three ways to reuse characters in novel writing.

1. Change their setting/situation
If you have a solid character, but a weak story, then maybe you just need to put that character somewhere else. Keep them as they are in your mind, a fully formed person of your imagination, and put them in a completely different scenario to see how they would react. (This is a brilliant writing exercise too by the way, simply for finding out more about your characters.)

For example, if you originally had them placed in a contemporary, real location try forcing them into a crumbling future in a fictional land. If they were originally trapped in an awkward tale of romance, try having them witness a major crime and see how they react. It’s a great way to work out whether your character really is strong enough to be reused in a story that has more potential.
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2. Introduce them to other recycled characters
This is how my W.I.P. was born. I had two characters who I’d created, and loved, but their stories were weak, dull, boring…one day I started wondering what would happen if these two characters met. And a friendship so strong, yet complicated, was born, and before I knew it I had a whole plot outlined for their story. This is now a finished novel, several edits down, and close to submission stages. Never give up on characters that you love – before you know it, they may surprise you. Try introducing them to characters from other projects you’ve attempted and see what happens.
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3. Give them a new audience 
Maybe the reason your brilliant character’s story didn’t work is because you were aiming them at the wrong audience. Using an example of my own again, I once had a character in a YA story, that I came to realise didn’t work not because of the character herself, but because she belonged in a children’s book. Try fitting your characters into a different genre, or aim them at a different age group. You may find they flourish this way and help you complete a story that you can be truly proud of.
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Have you ever reused any of your characters? It’s a topic I am so, so interested in so do comment below and share your thoughts. Have you done it? Would you do it? I’d love to hear your thoughts,

But until then,
Keep writing,
M
x

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21 thoughts on “Ways to Reuse your Characters”

  1. I guess it partly depends if someone writes plot-drive or more character-driven work.
    Sometimes minor characters have to go if they create they’re own ‘arc’ and it becomes one too many, and they might warrant a main role in something else.
    Another question I wonder about is whether writers create full bios for their minor characters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like it’s one of those things that needn’t be tried unless you have a character you really truly don’t want to let go of, but their story wasn’t really enough. It means you get to write about them again, and hopefully write something stronger. It worked for me! And that’s a good point about names, I’ve never used the same name twice but I suppose you use what works for that character 🙂 x

      Like

  2. So interesting to read about slotting your characters into different books, M. I’ve never thought to do this (or have had the need yet), but will keep it in mind. It’s a great way to hold onto a character you like. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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