A recent post by Jennifer Crusie reminded me of a story problem that I’ve been ignoring for a while. In earlier drafts, Cheyenne was a loner—no family and few female friends. The story was populated with mostly males, and most of those characters were a part of Reed’s community, not Cheyenne’s. One such character is foster-father to Reed and witty Australian, Catfish Deveron.
Catfish hasn’t been on stage much lately, but initially I had big plans for him. A year ago he was pivotal to the house rehab Cheyenne must undertake to get what she wants, was a foil for Hawk, and a central component of Reed’s character arc (Catfish wants to promote Reed to manager of the construction company he owns; Reed wants to remain a site supervisor so he can be where the action is.)
Making Catfish disappear from the story has benefits, however. For one thing, it would eliminate a huge plot hole in a plot line that explains why Reed is under Hawk’s thumb. In order to allow his wife (and Hawk’s daughter) Kara to die at home, Reed quit his job and moved back to Dry Creek, taking a house and a loan (for medical expenses) from Hawk. It’s the old man’s ace in the hole and the whip he uses to keep Reed in line. With Catfish around (a successful businessman and foster-father to Reed) one has to ask why Reed would go to Hawk for money (and put himself under the thumb of a power-hungry crazy man). It wasn’t plausible, but I couldn’t get rid of Catfish.
Now there’s been a seismic shift in the direction of my story. The Fraser family has emerged moving the story away from Reed’s community and to Cheyenne’s (where the focus should be). Kate Fraser isn’t simply the owner of the town diner, she’s BFF to Cheyenne’s biological mother, Rose, and as such holds the key to Cheyenne’s past. Her son, Cord is the town cop. Most important (and exciting) of all, Porter Fraser (Kate’s husband, Cord’s father) may or may not be Cheyenne’s biological father.
Cheyenne’s interaction with the Fraser family has substantially cut into Catfish’s page time (which was pretty slim to begin with). Porter has displaced him as a foil for Hawk, and Reed is now central to helping Cheyenne rehab the house. So, do I need Catfish anymore? Going with Jenny’s character definitions, Catfish is a supporting character (he has no sub-plot of his own). He serves a purpose in the story, but whether he would be missed if he simply disappeared is the question I need to answer. I’d miss him on a personal level (he’s a hoot to write), but I’m not sure eliminating him hurts the story in any way. He’s easily replaced by another character (Cord maybe) in some of his critical scenes. Getting rid of him would also eliminate a pretty big plot hole.
I was going to include a snippet from my favorite Catfish scene so you can get a sense of him, but it’s a rough draft and I’ve decided not to thrust it upon the unsuspecting. If you’d like to take a look, it’s on my personal blog. If after reading it you’d like to weigh in on whether Catfish should stay or go (given the skimpy information I’ve provided) have at it.
Have you killed off any of your characters yet and if so, what criteria did you use to make that decision?