Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Writing Circles and Walk-On Characters

by Molly Noble Bull

Circles and walk-on characters might seem like unusual writing terms. But they are important if you want your book or story to succeed. Here’s why.
Walk-on characters, in movies and novels, are never given names, and they never says much. For example, the waiter or waitress in a cafe could be a walk-on because all he or she does is hand each character a menu and say, "Are you ready to order?" Other walk-ons might be the person at the checkout counter at Wal Mart, the ticket person at the movies, the maid or butler in the home of a wealthy character, etc. The author might refer to these characters in the story as the waiter, the waitress, the checkout lady, the maid or the butler.
Waiters and waitresses, maids and butlers can also be important characters in a story. If they are, the author must give them names—like Mr. Jones, Sally Brown, Pastor Wilson. Characters with names are described and engage in conversations rather than merely speaking a few words.
But have you ever heard of the writing term “Full Circle?” Full circle means that what happened at the beginning must happen again near the end of the story.
I remember seeing a movie once where at the beginning of the story birds flew south for the winter. Near the end of the movie, spring had come, and birds were flying north. This is a perfect example of full circle writing.
When a character speaks a lot and is given a name other than a general name like the ones listed above this character must be mentioned again before the end of the story in order to come full circle. Let us say that near the beginning of the story the heroine is robbed by a man with tattoos all over his body. She calls him Tattoo Man, and he is never found. At the end of the story, the heroine picks up a newspaper and reads that a man who sounds like Tattoo Man was arrested for stealing a woman’s purse at a shopping mall.
And the heroine thinks, Tattoo Man. I always hoped he would be brought to justice. Now he has.
That is really all that is needed to make a story full circle. But it must be done. Otherwise, the story is likely to be rejected.
Circles and walk-on characters might sound like strange writing terms. But they are very important if you want your story or novel to sell.


Molly Noble Bull said...

I have another article on writing at my blog. Here is the address.
Come on over.

Molly Noble Bull said...

I gave you the wrong address from my blog. It's