Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Harry or Ezra: The Problem of Minor Characters

I'm in the final stages of creating a new print edition for The Man from Shenandoah. As I was checking my personal copy of the first version for places I had marked that had errors of one type or another, such as a typographical error, misspelled word, point-of-view mistake, and the like, I came across a startling fact with vital importance to the story I'm writing now, but that's issue is for another post. The most important issue was a name that caught my eye, after I had created the portable document file (pdf) version to upload to CreateSpace. I stopped work as though I had been struck by lightning, and did not upload the pdf.

It was the name of a minor character. He'll never be a major character. He'll never have a book of his own. Why did his name strike me with such intensity that I put off the upload until I had a moment to do more research?

Because I was not sure if the name was correct.

You see, I remembered that I had changed it in the past. I knew at one point I had called him Ezra, if only on the character card bearing the names of his brothers and sisters. I had to be absolutely sure the name showing up in the new print edition of The Man from Shenandoah was the same name he'd carried in Spinster's Folly, or any other place he'd appeared in the "Owen Family Saga."

I've finished my research, and it shows that this young squirt carried the name "Harry" in Spinster's Folly as well as in the original print copy of The Man from Shenandoah. His name changed to Ezra in the ebook version, though.

[Marsha heaves a huge sigh]

I'll have to fix that sometime, but I won't rush right out and do it today. With a cast of hundreds of characters in "The Owen Family Saga," it's not a terribly important blemish, although it does raise a rash on my internal editor.

The upshot of this research expedition is that even minor characters can cause problems for a writer if the writer is inconsistent in keeping track of the masses. Harry Ezra Morgan, you're a snot-nosed little troublemaker!

Have you ever come across a name change in a novel as you're reading it? Did it irritate you, or spoil the story in your mind? Or were you compassionate and forgiving to the harried author?

Tell me what you think about typos and other errors in printed or electronic books. How do they color your reading experience?

Thank you!


  1. When I was just a reader, I never noticed things like spelling errors or grammars mistakes. I don't ever remember name changes either. But as an author, I do. Do they bother me? Not so much in indie-published books, but in books that go through publishers and therefore editors, yep! Those are held up to higher standards, as far as I'm concerned. They have professional editors who are supposed to catch continuity issues, spelling, and grammar mistakes and plot holes without taking away the author's voice. Being an indie-publisher, we do our best, and as a reader of indie-published books, we need to be understanding.

    1. Thanks, Debra. When I was younger, I was a pretty critical person in all aspects of my life, including reading. Errors drove me nuts! Now that I'm a writer, I'm much more forgiving. :-)

  2. like that, "When I was just a reader!" Yes, I have noticed things like that in books I have read. It didn't make me think anything really, about the author, but it made me feel thrown. I'm not sure what book it was-I love British mystery series, and I believe it was 'the old caretaker' or some such character, and for whatever reason, his name changed in the middle of the series and stayed that way! I'm having a different problem with some minor characters in my series, though I have experienced the name problem you speak of. I'm working on my third novel in my series, and I have 2 minor characters that I want to get together and get married. They want to do that, but they are pretty well refusing to show themselves in the novel. I get the feeling they want their relationahip kept private. What they want to do is show up at the end of the novel and say, "We went to the justice of the peace! We're married!" I wanted to explore the relationship and have some fun with it, but they don't like the idea. Is that crazy or what? Aren't they supposed to do whatever I tell them to do? That's what I used to think before I tried writing. But these people have minds of their own.
    So as for me, I do notice those things now but am much more forgiving of them-Debra makes a good point though. Those with publishers and editors (la-dee-dah!) do need to be held to a higher standard.

    1. Jane Marie, thanks for visiting!

      You bring up a very interesting point. Who actually is in charge of the actions of characters?

      I'm going to agree that characters have minds of their own. The author simply must not force characters to act in ways outside of their characteristics or wishes. You might ask your characters if they object to appearing in a subsequent book, perhaps as major characters, where you can showcase their romance. They may surprise you with their response. Or they may demur, preferring to keep their privacy intact. Either way, you have other people to work with, so don't dwell on their refusal to act according to YOUR will. :-)

  3. I'm a stickler for any and all mistakes that make it past the editing process and into a published novel, but that's only because I'm a proofreader by nature. I've come upon a few name mistakes, but I'm actually more forgiving of those than I am grammatical errors, such as switching then for than, or even typos, such as quite for quiet and form for from. Run-on sentences and misplaced commas are even more bothersome, however. BTW, I really liked your most recent Sweet Saturday Sample. I enjoyed your writing style, the details and description. Nice work :-)

    1. Thank you, Polly. I appreciate your visit and comments. I am naturally a proofreader, as well. sometimes, it's difficult. :-)

  4. A few errors don't bother me too much, but when it happens frequently (in either print or e-books) it really gets on my nerves. Each time a glaring mistake happens it pulls me out of the story. I'll give the author another go, but if it happens in a second books I probably won't buy from that author again.

    1. I have similar standards, Nicole. If we don't learn from our mistakes, we're not progressing. Thanks for visiting and making a comment!


I welcome your comments.

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