Outrageous Characters: comic relief or just ludicrous?

Photo cred: Rupaul
Photo cred: Rupaul

Its been a long week, heavy on the work and light on the writing. Finally dug into my writing and the first twenty pages are beginning to breath life into my story. I continue to develop the characters with flashes of descriptions so the reader has a good picture of who they are and how they relate to the plot. I’m learning to bring my laptop wherever I go so if the moment strikes I am prepared. This week even found a few moments at a doctors appointment to add a 2,000 more words.

In the current chapter introductions of what I would call my comic relief character who is an over-the-top personality. I needed a matching name to go with his personality so asked my hubby for some suggestions. If anyone was listing to our waiting room conversation, I’m sure they thought we were out of our minds but finding the right name is critical. So we sat there thinking up names and I began to wonder – am I making this character to crazy? Do we need outrageous characters or will anyone do the job of comic relief?

My brain began scanning the library in my mind of past read books and series for those types of characters. I thought of Janet Evanovich’s Plum Series outrageous characters such as: Lula, Grandma Mazur, and Sally Sweet. Do these characters need to be that outrageous? Does it help the story? and as a reader do they bring us back for more? Lula was introduced as a minor character in the first Plum Series One for the Money. She was a hooker informant and gave a piece of the puzzle to the story line. Not much there just a simple character with a few zingers; I mean what hooker from Trenton NJ wouldn’t have a few great one liners? Then Evanovich brought Lula back as a retired hooker trying to go straight and becomes a key outrageous character who is heavy on the comic relief.

But are these characters too outrageous? Do we as readers enjoy them or eye roll when we read the crazy off-the-wall things they do and say? When we read:

“I always wanted to eat with a Negro.” (Grandma Mazur). “Yeah, well I always wanted to eat with a honey-assed old white woman.” (Lula) 

Do we laugh and picture the two of them sitting there having a meal, breaking bread and smirking about their new found friendship? Or do we think what in the hell is Evanovich doing people don’t talk like that? Does it frustrate the reader or do we as writers need to place these ludicrous characters in strategically to give a brief break and hopefully a belly laugh?

I must say that as I’m building my novel’s outrageous character, they indeed do have a place at the table of important characters. The world is a place of crazy personalities, just take a look around and you’ll find them. How boring would it be if these gems were missing from our story? As writers we owe it to our readers to fully breath life into our novels and color the characters with a rainbows of craziness. Just remember too many ludicrous personalities your plot can get lost. Put them in where needed, show restraint and your reader will love them as much as I do.


From Music City

Nashville, TN


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