I just got rid of two characters again, and I could not be more relieved.
The difference is, these two didn't start out as main characters. They were side characters first, in an original version of the book's opening. Then they were cut out from that scene, only mentioned offhandedly by the main characters. Then they popped up again in a new part of the book, and I was gonna let them stay there.
But they didn't do anything and I never planned for them to. They were props, not even useful as diversions to throw the reader off. Just there, existing, at best to force an idea on the reader, and I'm not happy with the idea in question.
So they had to go. Another guy is staying, but I have big plans for him as this story moves along.
It was a very quickly made, very final decision that came as I was editing the new part the other night. I printed out the manuscript and put it in a binder. I like that better because I get a better feel for things. It's more hands on. I have a red pen, and I jot things down on the page and slap sticky notes at crucial points I want to change. I discover more about the book that way. It's not on a screen, giving me eye strain. It's like working on a sculpture in soft clay. Take away here, add there, and find more hidden in the story. More possibilities.
It's old fashioned, sure. No doubt about that at all. But before I rediscovered this technique, I would always feel a little apprehensive about opening that Microsoft Word file. It was intimidating, I suppose. But with 270 pages of paper, a binder, and a red pen, I feel more comfortable with it even as it grows longer and becomes more.
It made me be able to let go of two characters who offered nothing. It's making my book more of what I imagined it to be, and I love that.
So here's to being old-fashioned. And good books, too.