Learning to Write XXXI
How do you weed out characters that aren’t earning their keep?
A character doesn’t earn his or her keep when they do nothing interesting with or in opposition to the leading characters in your narrative. If they are your leading characters you need to stop writing and return to the stage of thinking about your novel. At some point in the future you will have to start again.
Usually, the subsidiary characters who aren’t making the grade fail in the ‘memorability test’. You don’t remember their names immediately, or when you come across their names you have to stop and think where you met them last. They are one-dimensional; in their company you are a little edgy on their behalf, wishing they would display one or two contradictions or character flaws.
If one of these characters has a secret, you know it won’t be worth much and you hope they manage to keep it under wraps. They probably will, too; because wall-flowers don’t have much to say for themselves.
Dull people in life may pay off after a while. Sometimes you have to be patient for a long time, waiting for them to prove you right. In fiction they never will. If they bore you, don’t inflict them on your readers. Write them out.