Dealing with my Nowhere Man

So I’ve recently encountered an issue in my writing, and that issue is how I should deal with what I affectionately call my Nowhere Man character. I briefly reference this issue in my latest blog post, in which we get halfway through editing a scene and then go, “Wait … isn’t Miguri supposed to be in this scene also? Where the heck did he go?”

By “Nowhere Man”, I mean a character who’s in the scene, but isn’t directly involved in it. So in the scene I referred to in my vlog, my problem is that I have two characters engaged in a dramatic fight to the death,while the protagonist looks on, offers encouragement, and ultimately gets involved in the fight herself.

But also in the scene is Miguri, my “Nowhere Man”, who contributes absolutely nothing to the fight because he’s three feet tall and couldn’t win a fight to save his life. In the original, unedited version of that scene, I solved the problem of “What to do with Miguri?” by just not mentioning him at all for about a chapter and a half. Obviously not the best solution to dealing with him.

We puzzled over that one for a while, and ended up noting that he “hid behind a metal block” for the duration of the fight. An elegant solution? No. But that’s the issue I’m trying to address in this post.

As a character, Miguri is awesome. He’s full of sage advice, makes lots of dry comments that crack me up, and is an excellent addition to most scenes. However, sometimes he just doesn’t contribute to the scene at all, but due to the flow of the plot, he has to be in the scene or else risk causing massive plot holes. In the fight scene I was talking about, he definitely can’t contribute anything — there’s a duel to the death going on, and no one has the time to be listening to his aforementioned sage advice and dry commentary. So what do I do with him?

My answer, clearly, is to make him hide behind a block. And that’s fair enough — he’s hidden behind various large objects in previous battle scenes, so there’s a precedent. But I can’t help feeling like that’s a cop-out. If a character is in a scene, I feel like they should contribute something. Does hiding count as contributing? I just don’t know. Maybe I should have knocked him out for the whole battle. That would have shown him! But again, a rather inelegant solution.

I suppose the best way to deal with a Nowhere Man is to have them do whatever their character would reasonably do in that situation. Even if that means hiding behind a block for three chapters. It isn’t terribly exciting, and readers are liable to forget the character’s even there — but then, isn’t that what hiding is supposed to do? Make you forget the hider is there? So in that case, I succeeded magnificently at making Miguri hide, because I totally forgot he was even in the scene! Huzzah!

Banana-themed link of the day:

Swords replaced with bananas.

((Description: A variety of images in which swords are replaced with bananas. Scroll down to the bottom for an excellent LOTR gif))

Related YouTube link of the day:

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Dealing with my Nowhere Man

  1. That’s definitely a tricky problem; one that I’ve encountered a few times in my own writing.

    I think the solution depends on the type of character he is, which obviously you know better than I do. But some ideas would be:

    – Perhaps have him shouting his sage advice from the safety of his hiding place – albeit a futile effort, in his mind it’s how he can contribute to the battle. Maybe he even gets flustered by the lack of attention being paid to him – providing for a light moment or two in an otherwise tense scene.

    – Another idea would be that despite his diminutive stature, he still does what he can in the battle by chucking stones (or whatever is around) from his hiding place. Maybe he even hits his friends in the battle by accident. Remember, just because he’s small doesn’t mean he can’t make a difference (insert Hobbit reference here). 🙂

    Again, these are just suggestions to get the gears spinning in your head. It really depends on who the character is and what his relationship is to those in the battle. Is he a coward, an intellectual, does he think he is bigger than he actually is? If he’s good friends with the character(s) in the battle, then it seems unlikely that he wouldn’t try to help out in some way, even if it’s really not that much help in the grand scheme of things – he would just need to believe himself that he is making a difference. Then again, if he only just met the character in the battle, then he might not be so inclined to risk his neck trying to help them, in which case you could play that up. Hope this helps a little. 🙂

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Hi Michelle,

    After reading this post, I watched the first several minutes of your vlogged editing session, and I have a few semi-solicited thoughts for you:

    o Editing was never intended to be this much fun. 😉

    o Your response to your editor-mom’s Miguri inquiry, “He’s not relevant!”, seems to be a hint at how to handle–or not handle–his character in the subject scene. IMHO, if he’s truly not relevant to the scene, he probably shouldn’t be in it at all. If that doesn’t feel right to you, then perhaps he really is relevant, and the question you have to answer is, “How is Miguri relevant to this scene?” That answer might help you figure out how to better deal with his character here.

    o What POV are you using in “Imminent Danger”? I ask because if Miguri is your narrator, that might inform his relevance in the subject scene.

    o Whatever you are paying your editor-mom, I suspect it isn’t nearly enough!

    Well, my two cents (cliche alert), for what it’s worth.

    All the best,

    • Ha, you always brighten my day with your comments 🙂 Let’s see …
      – it looks a lot more fun than it is
      – excellent point, I shall consider the matter further
      – it’s in 3rd person, from the protagonist’s POV (the protagonist is not Miguri)
      – my mother would be inclined to agree with you

  3. I have no suggestions, but I loved when you and your mom were discussing The Nowhere Man in your vlog. 🙂

  4. I have the stray vampire or two who is not a fighter and not always important (e.g. Jeremy, Ciaran), but who needs to be in a scene–at least part of the time.

    Two of my answers: Injure and incapacitate them at the beginning. Makes them look a bit more noble, plus pisses off their friends. Or, in the alternative, send them on an errand–let them escort someone away, go to hide some important thing, or go to retrieve something necessary to the fight. This allows them to disappear for a while, but it’s not hard to bring them back when you need them.

    • Yes, I did notice how often Ciaran got injured, lol. I loved his character, though (maybe because he’s Irish?) — I kind of want him to get together with Kalyn, even though she’s sort of spoken for already …

  5. Yeah, I felt bad for poor Ciaran by the time the first book was done; he was a perpetual victim. Anselm and Micah give him some training in the second book, though, so he gets better. We get to see him and Kalyn both put the smack down on their enemies.

    And you only think she’s spoken for. The course of true love never did run smoothly.

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