Thursday, June 11, 2009

R.I.P., Porthos Pomander. May flights of angels... well, you know the rest.

Just so no one starts scratching their heads saying they've never heard of such a fellow, let me assure you that you never will.

He was dead weight, just another confusing name at a dinner-party, a pompous, snuff-addicted ass who really served no purpose in EVANGELINE (my YA paranormal currently in revision). He only had one scene. His family will never miss him, nor will the book reading public. So why do I feel a pang of regret for striking his name, his dialogue, his very existence from my novel? He is the first named character I have ever deleted like this, which may have something to do with the way I am feeling.

I'm feeling a strange sympathy for fictional author Karen Eiffel from the movie Stranger than Fiction when she discovers her character Harold Crick, who she's just figured out how to kill, is a real man. Now, killing off characters is not hard for me. I've killed off characters, main characters, mind you, whose deaths affected other characters profoundly. Whose deaths were necessary to the story.

I understand that eliminating the chaff (and old man Pomander was certainly chaff) is also necessary to the story. What I don't understand is why he's been haunting me. I didn't even like the old codger, and he was a bit of a misogynist. I should be happy that I've slimmed down my manuscript, while, simultaneously, adding to the characterization of the other members of the dinner-party who DO return to the story.

Instead I keep thinking, did he actually have a family? Or maybe old Pomander played for the other team? Maybe his snuff-addiction began in his stint in the military. No, he was way too much of a coward to fight in the infantry. There are a hundred lives, histories, that might have been for Porthos. I'll never know him properly, and there probably won't be a reason to use him again. Because he's just a name floating out there in the collective consciousness, a man without a purpose, without a motive and without motivation, he isn't a character any longer. But I called him into being. I feel responsible for him, and for taking care of him now that he's outlived his usefulness.

Here's hoping that this post will send poor Porthos to wherever he belongs. Is there a heaven (or hell?) for characters stricken with the horrid and always fatal backspace-fluenza?

Anyone else plagued by fictional ghosts of their on making? Characters you killed or eliminated?


Abby said...

Backspace-fluenza - I love it!

Sorry, I don't remember Mr. Pomander, but may he rest in peace, wherever he is. :)

I'm always sad when I kill a character, even if it's not a main character. But I've eliminated several and haven't really been too concerned about it. Maybe because they were just extras and the story was better without them? I don't know. Maybe I'm just heartless. :)

Tess said...

I've committed the crime of refusing to take out a character even when I know I should....eventually, I've repented and removed them, but it would have been WAY easier to listen to my instincts earlier on in the writing.

Go with your gut, right? Maybe you'll find a way to fit that character into a future story.

And, thanks for visiting my blog! Always fun to meet new writing/blogging friends :)

Rebecca Knight said...

I feel bad whenever I rename a main character :P. It feels like I just told them they were adopted, and now they don't know who they are.

I recently changed my main evil lady from Malise to Leanore, and now I have odd guilt.

She'll get used to it eventually... ;)

Becca said...

I haven't eliminated a character yet, but I've thought about a couple that could go.

Sorry for your loss. :)

Icy Roses said...

I eliminated quite a few characters in my second draft, and I replaced some of them with new ones. Once a character is gone from my story, he no longer comes up in my conscience. His backstory disappears; he ceases to exist. I am ruthless. I have no mercy. Always look forward and never back, I say. :-)

TereLiz said...

Abby, thankfully you don't remember him. It was actually one of your comments that led me to strike the poor fellow, so maybe I'll foist my guilt off onto you. Excellent. ;)
Tess, you're exactly right about going with your gut. I need to make that my mantra, because I tend to overthink things. In case you couldn't already tell.
Becca K., LOL, adopted!!
Becca, thanks for the sympathy. ;)
Icy, you are as cold as your name. j/k I need to look forward, too. Right after I finish writing this time-travel novel. :)

Eric said...

I am learning the same things you are, the pain and agony of cutting out those characters we've built up in our minds. Even the minor ones sometimes become important for some reason, and we procrastinate getting rid of them. If it makes you feel better, write an entirely different story (short or novel) with the recently deceased as the MC. You don't even have to publish it, but it may be cathartic to give him somewhere to go. Just a thought.

Angela said...

Interesting. Perhaps he haunts you because the muse thinks that even tho he's not right for this novel, maybe there's a place for him in the future...and you'll be seeing him again. :-)

Abby said...

I think blame falls under stage three of the seven stages of grief, so it sounds like you're working through it. Only four more stages to go, and then maybe you can finally move past this.

Don't worry, I'm not upset at you for blaming me. It's all part of the process. I'm just glad I can help. :D

Danyelle said...

It sounds like there's a story to this. :o) Maybe not for this novel, but a different one. :D

Suzanne said...

I eliminated a whole species. I thought I could turn my WIP into a sci-fi, but i can't write that... kudos to you all that can. But they had a wonderful name... and I was able to share them with a critique partner who happened to need them. Perhaps they were hers to begin with..... So I killed them, and she resurrected them. It was a win, win!

TereLiz said...

Suzanne, amazing story. That you were able to let them go and give them to someone else really says a lot about the relationships that we develop with our critique partners. Someone you met as part of a writing community online? I'm trying to piece together a post on that, but not sure exactly what I want to say yet. Thanks for sharing your reincarnation story!