Kat: Killing Off Catfish Deveron

Goodbye Catfish Deveron

Goodbye Catfish Deveron

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?





11 thoughts on “Kat: Killing Off Catfish Deveron

  1. I kill people off all the time, even after I give them substantial roles to play. I just killed off Helga in my own WIP, and she had chapters all to herself. If you don’t need that character, s/he doesn’t have to be there. And without reading your excerpt, my best bet is that you should kill off Catfish. If you’re asking the question, you probably know the answer. But that’s just me. I’d say, put him in another book. You’ve got the setting, and you want to reuse it. You can build a series around that town and those people. So if you like him, but he’s not necessary to this story, I’d say, have him go on vacation until your next book gets started.

    • I thought of keeping him in limbo for another story, and I may do it if it makes sense. Bottom line though, he either has no ties to Reed or maybe he’s in the outback of Australia working on a project.

      Or something.

      • I loved Catfish in your earlier drafts, Kat, but I think Kay said it. Treat the poor guy right and give him plenty of space in another book. There’s lots of construction going on in Australia right now 🙂

        I went the opposite way and added a couple of characters, something I’ve had in mind for ages but have been trying to avoid. I think it reads much better now I’ve bowed to the inevitable. I haven’t killed anyone off, but I have dialed Sasha back a lot, and taken her POV away. She’ll be back though. I changed her timeline slightly, so the scenes I’ve cut from this book should work perfectly in a later one.

    • I agree completely, Kay. Save him for another book, perhaps a smaller one, like a novella. In my case, Guy, Nate’s friend, is getting his own novella. So are Nate’s triplet sisters. Part of my reason for doing this is because they’re not blood family to Susannah, and the novel-length books I’ve planned revolve around that family, not the in-laws. Still, there are stories I want to tell for the extras, hence a novella.

  2. I agree with Kay – it sounds like you already know the answer about Catfish. And it is hard to say goodbye to characters you enjoy writing, so good plan to give him his own story or a big part in a future book.

    In the My Girls WIP, I discovered somewhere in the first year (during one of the McD modules) that Sarah’s father had died four years before the timeline of the book started, which answered a lot of questions about that family’s dynamics and why he was letting his wife bulldoze through his grown daughters’ lives without at least trying to stop her. It also gave said mother a motive – grief/need to protect what is left of her family. So sad as it is, sometimes killing (or at least disappearing) a character can fix ‘what’s broke’.

  3. Goodbye Catfish!

    I’ve just axed a character too (and added new ones) – it’s quite liberating once you get over the initial shock.

    • Glad to hear it’s survivable. He’s actually been off the page for awhile now, so removing him altogether shouldn’t hurt too bad. Who knows, he may end up in one of my future stories.

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