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I am a young author writing a fantasy series. When I was looking over my manuscript, I realized that in chapter seven I’d added a character named Autumn. She’s a tiny fairy who rides around on the MCs shoulder. She can’t actually talk though, because in my fantasy world fairies cannot be heard, similar to the fairies in the Tinker-Bell movies.

Because Autumn can’t talk, I accidentally forget about her by chapter twelve because so much was happening. That made me wonder if this character was even necessary to the overall story line.

She’s more of a symbol than an actual character though, because in chapter seven the fairy Queen sent Autumn with my main characters as a symbol of friendship and well being, then later in chapter 22 brings her whole army to help the characters fight in the final battle against the antagonists army, therefore turning the tides of the fight. (The fairies are warriors the size of your finger. Very difficult to actually fight, especially when there’s a lot of them)

Autumn is sort of like an ambassador, but I don’t believe she’s truly needed. (Sorry Autumn)

Should I keep or delete this character?

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    Have you planned far ahead in the series? Could Autumn spring back in another book? – Andrew Morton Dec 1 '20 at 14:23
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    Not being able talk and not being able to communicate are not the same thing. Is Autumn simply sitting on the shoulder and not doing anything else the entire time? – Michael Richardson Dec 2 '20 at 15:58
  • I asked this questions yesterday with less then thirty reputation. Come back on the website and I have over a hundred reputation. Wow. – Hello.There Dec 2 '20 at 16:56
  • No, I have not planned out every single move of my characters for the rest of the series, but have an idea of what each book is going to be about. Autumn often communicated with body language (frowning and punching the other characters, smiling, waving, crossing her arms, etc) – Hello.There Dec 2 '20 at 17:05
  • I don't have an answer, but don't forget that you created Autumn. She exists only in your mind and your story. She won't call you asking for a meeting because she hasn't been in the story for a few chapters or even books. Your character may even forget she's there! – corsiKa Dec 3 '20 at 20:48
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As Autumn appears as a token of the Queen's support and as the Queen comes to their salvation at the end of the tale, you could consider dropping in very small and perhaps mysterious comments re Autumn's activities and presence along the way. These could take very little effort to add but could add an (extra) element of mystery and you could if desired weave them into a very major component of the final outcome.

Maybe Autumn has been 'reporting back' throughout.

Maybe Autumn has a very special relationship with the Queen (daughter, ...?).

Maybe her role has been far more major than was realised throughout.
(While Strider morphs into Aragorn and is obviously important in the Lord of the Rings, it's relatively late in the tale that we begin to realise that he is THE King.)

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  • I’d never thought of that. Originally, the fairies had kind of just ‘popped in’ and saved the day. (Not really, but I’d have to explain my whole story to explain this along with a thousand years of history in my fantasy world and I can’t really fit it all into a single comment.) – Hello.There Dec 2 '20 at 17:09
  • I just read through the other answers in more detail. While I'm happy to provide an accepted answer, I feel that @DWkraus's answer overlaps my one substantially, was posted before mine and has additional useful material. I suggest their answer is more worthy of acceptance than mine. – Russell McMahon Dec 2 '20 at 23:42
  • Yes, his answer is helpful, but none of his suggestions actually fit with my story. I already have all the MCs decided and the next six books planned, so none of his answer can actually help me. – Hello.There Dec 3 '20 at 1:36
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Reading your description, I came to this conclusion: without changing the plot, Autumn can be replaced by an object, a token of friendship that’s an actual token.

You’re right that something needs to be done. Having a character present in the middle of the action but not doing anything or even being mentioned is confusing for the audience. And having a character who only exists for the benefit of another character doesn’t send a good message, even if it’s trope we see all the time in the media.

It’s simply not realistic to have an intelligent being sent to a war zone, risking her life, to do nothing. Either the Queen had a reason to send Autumn specifically, or she didn’t and therefore sent a gift instead.

If you decide to keep Autumn in your story, then make her more like a character and less like an object. What was the reason she was sent on this mission: how does she help the group? What’s her personality? What does she want? Show it! Don’t let the fact that she can’t talk stop you, especially when that doesn’t stop anyone in real life, not even people who can’t use sign language (see for example PECS).

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    I would say sending an intelligent being to a war zone risking her life to do nothing is entirely realistic, but probably not a great fit for a fantasy series of the kind the OP is writing. – DRF Dec 1 '20 at 8:11
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    Piggyriding this answer, if you have a need for Autumn in the next chapters but nothing in between, make her an object that, in a moment of MC distress, summons a fairy to do what you planned to. – Moacir Dec 1 '20 at 11:09
  • If you keep Automn: What's her relation with the protagonist? Do they trust eachother? Is the protagonist worried she's spying on them and reporting everything to the Fairy Queen? Is she a comforting presence or a burden? Add mentions of her here and there. When the protagonist bends over to pick something on the ground, why is she not falling from their shoulder - is the protagonist careful, or does she have to hold on tight? How are other characters reacting to the sight of a fairy on the protagonist's shoulder? Does she sleep at same time as protagonist? Can she be useful? Carry messages? – Stef Dec 1 '20 at 14:12
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    @Moacir: Or, alternatively, give Autumn something to do off-screen, and have her return when needed. Perhaps she has some other mission, which the Queen considers more important than hanging out with the MC, but she still needs to pop up from time to time to help with this or that diplomatic issue. But IMHO that's only worth it if she's going to have some kind of characterization, or contribute something material to the plot. If you just want the Queen to give the MC a "permission slip" to travel through the fairy lands or whatever, then an inanimate object works better. – Kevin Dec 1 '20 at 20:08
  • I vote for "make her an object", possibly one that can be used to summon the Fairy Queen's forces in a time of crisis. – Shawn V. Wilson Dec 1 '20 at 22:40
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I think the fact that you yourself forgot about her is indeed a sign that she's not really adding anything to your story. Personally, I believe in keeping characters to the minimum you actually need, because I think you end up with a stronger story, while making fewer demands on the reader.

If you can't keep track of this character, or care about her, neither will the readers.

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This is the kind of thing you figure out in revision. I do this all the time in early drafts, dropping characters, adding new ones, renaming them, changing their marital status, changing their gender, etc.

Pay attention as you read through your drafts whether that character adds anything to the story. If so, then you can bring her back or combine her with an existing character. If not, then put her in your notebook for a future story.

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Subtlety is Key...

This is entirely your call. Clean writing says eliminate anything that doesn't add to the story. The great thing about a story is you can go back and edit anything. If you love the character (and they're that small). I'm a big fan of adding my own self to the story. You might have the MC forget about Autumn. Then the MC realizes Autumn has been subtly manipulating events throughout the story - locking doors/stealing keys, distracting enemies at key moments, leaving clues for the MC about what to do.

Without being remembered or noticed, Autumn could be the real hero of the book. You could even add a chapter in which Autumn reports back to the queen, and the reader realizes Autumn completely changed the course of the story. Imagine her drawing off enemies the MC didn't even know were there, performing critical side-quests allowing the mission to continue, and making foes flinch at critical moments to save the clumsy, oafish humans. It might leave the reader anxious for a sequel where Autumn is the MC. You never know. It gives a nice message that sometimes the contributions of the small and forgotten, though overshadowed (literally) by bigger events, are as important as those who seem to dominate.

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    This. While other answers are correct about eliminating things that are unnecessary, I personally love stories that can be reread with a whole new layer of insight. Just make sure that there is enough in the periphery or the narrative to make it actually work, instead of being a cheap trick. – Dúthomhas Dec 1 '20 at 17:35
  • See my comment on my answer - I realise now that my answer overlaps yours substantially. Initially I skimmed through all answers to see if anyone had suggested my line of thought, and somehow did not note that yours did. So, not plagiarism, just parallel thinkings :-). – Russell McMahon Dec 2 '20 at 23:44
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Maybe you can call out her exits rather than ignore her? This is often used, especially if a character is comic relief, to show that the scene is serious. Consider in Avatar The Last Airbender the scenes where Momo the flying Lemur is not among the gang, and the general tone of those scenes (generally, when there's a lot of serious fighting, Momo is no where to be seen, but as soon as the tension winds down, he returns. This is especially notable in the finale when Momo leaves Aang for the dual with Ozai, but returns once the comet passes and the danger is over). Silent characters rely on over emoting in their performance. When Walt Disney was working on Peter Pan, he actually hired an actress to interact with props that were scaled to the Tinkerbell scene (on of our earliest introductions to Tinkerbell, her standing on the mirror and noticing how wide her hips were, was adlibbed by the actress and Walt later included the gag in animation. The scene also helps define her personality as being fiery, very quick to temper, and easily angered by people who are critical of her.). If the character is important, have her emote reactions to what's going on. In the case of Momo, often he was with Aang when Aang was alone, allowing Aang to "talk" to someone and voice his own thoughts and internal conflicts.

In a similar vein (and at time of writing, totally justifiable in watching) Muppets Christmas Carol is surprisingly considered one of the best addaptations of the Charles Dickens work, in part because Gonzo plays "Charles Dickens" in the film, which allows him to give voice to the story's narative voice, making the film a largely straight adapatation. Paired with Rizzo as himself, it allows for them to also work in Muppet humor. Not only does this help with making the liturature more apporachable to kids (especially the fact that Rizzo doesn't believe Gonzo as Dickens is in fact Dickens, thus helping kids grasp that Kermit the Frog isn't really suffering the very serious troubles of Bob Cratchet, but merely pretending to) it also helps the kids get through some very child unfriendly concepts by telling them it'll be okay (Rizzo openly points out that the first line of the narrative as delivered by Gonzo "The Marleys were dead to begin with" was really not the best way to open up a children's Christmas movie prompting a small discussion on the matter of fact that the book needs this fact to be understood in order for the story to happen.) and even at times tell the Children this is the scary part, we'll see you when it's over, to let the kids know that it's okay to be afraid now, and there is a happy ending to all of this (notably during the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come sequence, which is where the narrator is largely taken over by Skrooge's onesided dialog with the Ghost. As the scene was meant to scare Skrooge's redemption into him, it does have very dark moments). And they return almost as easily as the Redemption act of the story comes into play and tell the kids it's okay from here on out.

Essentially, it's okay to have a minor character out of frame for a large chunk of the story (maybe she realizes before the hero that the situation is grave and goes for the Calvery aka the fairy army or maybe she's there and provides colorful emotive responses that are funny in to the reader and keep them interested in the sequence that is dialog and exposition heavy. Perhaps she is the personification of the mood of the hero and his compainons and her actions "say" what everyone is thinking (she's not afraid to tell you what she thinks, she just can't speak to you... she's bratty when they're under stress and very moody and tempermental when everyone's down, and she's energetic and vibrant when there is cause for celebration. Her ambassatorial role is important, since you hinge the good will of the fairies in your battle, so I would say she's to important to cut, as it seems like that she does have to make a compeling argument to her queen to get them to take arms against the villains. It also helps to show while she can be a very abbrasive person, she still cares for the protaganists and is willing to go to the matt for them.). Maybe include a moment of personal loss for her, that makes her especially bitchy to our heroes... and when they try to cheer her up, it only seems to make things worse and she flies off and leaves the group... when she returns to the story with the army, you can explain that the attempt to cheer her up made her realize that they still cared for her even when she was a pain in the ass to them and that's what got her to defend them and argue to mobilize the army.

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Could you let her be forgotten in the story as well ?

Since she is small and doesn't talk, it could be plausible that the MC put her in a pocket and completely forgot about her, only to find her (comically or not) back later in the story, with consequences or not. It depends if that fits your story.

Is Autumn supposed to be of any help to the MC or just taking notes for the queen ?

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Like Chris pointed out, the reason you forgot about her is because she isn't adding much to the story. As a reader, I think there's plenty of character development for our little fairy even though she is mute.

A huge plus side of forgetting your mute character is they do not add much to the conversation, but at the same time, they can only communicate through actions. I suggest you go into her role as a silent "ambassador" or portray her as an intelligent quiet companion send by the queen to help them in the journey. Don't forget her small size = +100 stealth, for stealing keys, coins, and stuff.

I think one of the most subtle details is the queen coming back, so it adds up to a feeling of nostalgia (not exactly but you get the point). Overall I think she could be a huge fan-favourite.

I'd be interested in reading your novel once it's published, please share the title once you've done so.

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