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:
((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:
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!