Memorable Characters OR, How Feedback On Chapter One Got Me A Better Ending
The first three chapters of GLAMOUR have been critiqued by no less than 15 readers. The feedback I got regarding one of the characters in Chapter One had been both positive and consistent; everybody loved ‘Justin’, and couldn’t wait to read more about him. When I told them he was a throwaway character, their advice was consistent; they told me to DUMP HIM.
Their reasons were solid. As the scene opens, he’s the POV character, and he’s more likable than the protagonist. Most opined that he wasn’t carrying a big enough load in the scene, and could be cut altogether. Others suggested the problem could be better addressed by putting the scene in the protagonist’s POV.
But the problem with critiques that address only the first few opening scenes of a manuscript (in my opinion) is they aren’t really able to assess how important a minor character can be. I knew how big a load Justin was carrying, even if my audience didn’t. He anchors the entire story world and introduces the theme. What I hadn’t realized was that I’d created a memorable character. It wasn’t until my group leader at a recent workshop suggested that I scale back on some of Justin’s characterization, that I realized that Justin didn’t need to be a throwaway. Since Justin delivered the hook and introduced a unique story world in my first scene, the fact that he is so memorable also makes him perfect to star in the final scene as well.
So even though I was happy with the resonance in the last chapter of the manuscript, I added one more short scene to GLAMOUR, circling back to show how Justin has fared (behind the scenes) in the story world compared to how the protagonist has fared. The scene (I think) does a nice job showing how much the protagonist has changed, and to a lesser degree, how Justin’s world has changed too. Justin’s scene actually deepened the sense of resonance for the ending. More importantly, it allows Justin to ‘sell’ the next book in the series.
As I understand it, this technique is called ‘bookends’. All I know is, as soon as I finished this scene with Justin, I knew that GLAMOUR was finished.