The Ocean’s Eleven Rule

Daniel Ocean needed eleven guys with very specific characteristics to pull off a crazy-good Las Vegas heist.  I can’t name all the actors or characters in the movie, but I can remember their jobs:

  • a guy to act as bait (getting something in the vault)
  • a contortionist to actually get into the vault
  • a tech guy
  • an explosives guy
  • two getaway drivers
  • a smooth pickpocket
  • a card dealer to act as a diversion
  • a guy (with a vendetta) to fund the operation
  • a guy to handle the details and act as a second in command
Every character had some special skill that only he could do. Every. Single. One.  They also had names (which I can’t remember) and personality traits (which I can). 

We could all take a lesson from Ocean’s Eleven when writing minor characters.  If your character doesn’t have a specific job that only he/she can do, then you should a) get rid of them or b) roll them into another character.

Case in point:  Every girl should have a friend (unless your story is about the lack thereof), but she doesn’t need four BFFs.  You can leave out the red head (The ginger-haired folk don’t mind being underrepresented). Being red-headed does not make her important or even memorable.  BUT, if she happens to be a super-fiery personality, whose mouth always gets MC into trouble, and that somehow figures into a thread of your plot, then she can stay.

As you write, edit, and revise your WIP, ask yourself if every character is absolutely necessary to the plot.  If not, toss them!  You’ll be glad you did. 

And don’t forget that I’m interviewing Jen Knight, author of BLOOD ON THE MOON, on Friday! She’s also agreed to take questions and is offering a ten-page critique to a random commenter! 


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