Some Questions Deserve Answers
Four Great Literary Characters (Who Deserved Greater Parts)
Have you ever found yourself reading a book or watching a movie and realizing, as you do, that one of the side characters – a supporting cast member, henchman, sidekick, whoever, was as interesting as, if not more so, than the main characters?
Call it the Boba Effect: the rise of a minor character into a cult(ish) figure or object of fascination who, for whatever reason, sparks your imagination and makes you want to hear more about that person. Scifi and fantasy books are full of characters like these, and every writer probably comes up with a couple of them per book.
In my own new book, Codes, the near-future corporate society that’s trying to turned cloned humans into a commodity has its share of minor characters who probably had a lot more story to tell. The one that springs to mind is a guy called “Louis,” who first shows up in Codes working for the Find Out Who You Are Store that opens up suddenly in a strip mall. Louis works there, and then the next time we see him, he’s standing outside Robbie’s door while a blonde girl starts screaming about there being a murder.
Louis was originally going to be just that minor of a character, in the story for only a few pages. It’s not that much of a spoiler, in a book that prominently features clones being manipulated by both the bad guys and the good guys, to say that Louis ended up having a bigger role, popping up later in the story. By the time I was done with Codes, in fact, I had to fight the urge to go back in version 2 and beef up Louis’ role even more. I liked the character so much that I nearly made him the star of the show
So maybe if I get time in the future, there’ll be some Louis spinoffs or side projects in order to let me have some fun exploring that character’s adventures, too. In the meantime, while you wait for your copy of Codes to download (assuming you haven’t already ordered it, read it, reviewed it, and started pestering me for a sequel), take a look at these other minor (?) characters who deserved major plotlines:
- Gurney Halleck, Dune Musician/weapons teacher – where was that option as a major when I first went to college? Gurney Halleck did time in the Harkonnen slave pits, taught the Kwisatz Haderach how to fight, became Lady Jessica’s lover after the Duke was killed, and most of that happens offstage. (Bonus points: he was played by Patrick Stewart in the feature film!) Gurney Halleck was Obi Wan before there was an Obi Wan – plus apparently he could jam on the guitar (the ‘guitar’ in this case being a ‘baliset,’ which is a descendant of the zithra, and now I don’t know any more than I did when I began that sentence.)
I am not the only one who thought Gurney deserved his own storyline; apparently Brian Herbert brought him back for the later Dune books.
- Lee Scoresby, His Dark Materials: I’ve been listening to His Dark Materials as an audiobook the past few weeks, and am more impressed the second time around than I was the first. If you know the books, then you know Lee Scoresby, the balloonist from the Country of Texas, who’s in it just to make some gold (he says) but sets out to help save Lyra once she needs some real assistance, doing so by tracking down a shaman from another world who everyone thought was dead. (God, I love writing sentences like that!) Lee played a pretty big role in the books as it was, but his often-mentioned other adventures could fill an entire set of books of their own. Where is the Lee Scoresby fan fiction detailing his other campaigns with his daemon, Hester, and his fights alongside Iorek Byrnisson? Any guy whose ballooning adventures began with him winning the balloon and half the guide on how to fly it in a poker game is a guy who needs his own series of books!
And speaking of his own series, how about a book or three for
- Neville Longbottom. Harry Potter As a nerdy fat kid who wasn’t much good at the stuff that other kids were good at, I felt a lot closer to Neville than I did. Like Lee Scoresby, Neville actually does all right in the books, getting a big role – he destroyed (SPOILER ALERT!) the seventh Horcrux. In Neville’s case, it’s what came next that deserves more telling; according to the Harry Potter wiki, Neville served as an auror for a while before settling down (if that can be said about a professor at Hogwarts) and marrying. Raise your hand if you’d read The Adventures Of Neville Longbottom, Auror! (Now put your hand down. This is the internet. I can’t see you.)
And let’s finish up with possibly the most neglected side character of all:
- Ford Prefect: Hitchhikers’ Guide stories: Like the others on this list (and unlike Boba Fett, whose mystery and appeal are mostly in the minds of the fans), Ford actually has a big role in the books, what with guiding Arthur Dent around the universe and (ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT!) eventually crash-landing on the newly-created Planet Earth and being responsible for the creation of a new species and all. But that’s not enough! Ford was a researcher for the Guide, and had all kinds of excitement and adventures and really wild things happening to him. He must have done a million crazy awesome things, with and without Zaphod Beeblebrox (who I never really cared for, to be honest.) I know Douglas Adams is, sadly, dead, but if people can carry on expanding out the Star Wars and Dune and Star Trek and other universes, can’t someone be hired to write some Ford Prefect stories?
There are probably lots of other characters like this – leave it to a post about neglected or underrated characters to neglect and underrate lots of characters. Feel free to leave your own in the comments.
Codes: Robbie had an ordinary life, until she walked into Gravity Sling. Now he’s seeing coded messages everywhere, being chased by shadowy big-corporation goons, and questioning literally everything about the world as he knows it. Some questions need answers. This Phillip K. Dick style debut science fiction novel raises questions about how people use technology and each other.
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