As I work my way through the sequel to The Huntsman and the She-Wolf, I am frequently presented with a particular choice: introduce a new character to the series OR reuse an old character the audience knows.
Characters are constantly moving in and out of the narrative. The setting is a small but very productive village and a surrounding valley full of colorful personalities. So, if I want to add a character to the main character's troupe, what do I do?
When it comes to the protagonist and his allies, I've decided to reuse as many characters as possible. When it comes to the antagonists, I prefer a mix.
I had already started outlining and working on Book 2 in my series while Book 1 was with my beta readers. I was examining how the plot in the sequel would go, and I realized I needed a character with a connection to both Aranka (the librarian) and Garrov (the mad inventor).
As a result, I created Syra. She's a minor character but fills an important role for me. I introduced her to my character list for Book 2 as a new character, but then I got to thinking. Why in the world would the audience care about her? I knew I needed to establish some past history to draw the reader in.
My solution was to introduce Syra in book one as a helper to Aranka with aspirations to follow in Garrov's footsteps. Syra's interactions in the library make it clear she'd rather be somewhere else, but because of Aranka's peculiarities, Syra is needed in the Lodge much of the time.
To me, that makes her likable and compelling for a supporting character. Syra has a very small role in Book 1, appearing for only one chapter, I believe. But her presence establishes that character for the audience.
Going into Book 2, the reader knows Syra is: young, ambitious, hating her job, and filled with aspirations in the fields of forging metal and inventing contraptions.
Naturally, I'll have to remind the reader of that in the course of Book 2. I don't expect anyone to remember the characters with that sort of detail, but if I jog their memories correctly, Syra's arc will be much more engrossing than someone they never met before.
Now, a good time to introduce a new character is with the villains. Something new is always intimidating for people since humans are naturally afraid of the unknown.
Introducing a new threat is a powerful literary device because the audience actually feels the same confusion and dread as the characters. Who is this new threat? What are its powers? How will anyone escape?
That's fantastic! There are certainly times to reuse old villains, though, and I'll talk more about the new and old antagonists in a future post.
For now, I just want to celebrate 23 consecutive days of writing!!!!!!!! Let's hope I can keep that going.