Reusing old characters for new stories


#1

So, I’ve had a question on my mind I’ve been meaning to ask most of our resident authors here on the forum: have you ever used an old character (unpublished, of course) in one of your stories, upcoming or already released?

I ask this mostly because, as I’ve been drafting out ideas for my own story, I realized… I already have a pretty long list of existing characters whose character development I’ve already fleshed out and have a greater understanding of who they are as a person as opposed to the new characters currently forming and developing in this noggin of mine. Granted, there’s only one character I’m currently considering swapping out instead of the entire cast, but… I don’t know. I feel the need to get some opinions before making the decision.

I suppose my question is: is it acceptable to reuse an old character for a new story? Let me know what your opinions are.


#2

I’m all for it.

Flash from The Myrmidon is a character that I’ve put in half a dozen projects, as well as my character of choice when playing videogames. Radjack is a toned-down version of a character called The Beggar Prince Rodan from one of my larger projects, and so many others really.

They’re your characters, so you can subject them to whatever horrifying injustices your mind can imagine several times over. Some of my characters are getting so developed this way that I’m genuinely worried they’ll find a way to break into our universe and track me down…


#3

Yes.

Like a movie casting, characters are applying for their jobs in our stories. We may interview hundreds of them and even screenplay a number for a position before filing it.

A good writer will keep their character contact book close at hand because often if a character does not work in one project they will fit another.

Why, the characters that I deal with, know that they will be written and rewritten until that special day, I see they fit perfectly.

Some used characters will sometimes tell me of their identical twin or triplet and they sometimes get stories to call their own.

Characters, like actors are for use; if they don’t fit in one project, they will fit in another.


#4

I’ve never done it but now that you bring it up I kinda want to, I feel like it would be interesting. Personally I don’t think I’ve ever done it because I love the process of making new characters and adding to my OC arsenal. But at the same time, if there’s a character you really love and no one know’s about, why not?

I also feel like we do this anyway, do we not? Sure we might change names and origins around but I think we all have those characters that end up with the same personalities and general behaviors of characters from other stories.

My gosh I never saw it that way and now it will be impossible to unsee it that way.


#5

I know, right? I’ve just… got so many characters and there’s one in particular that hasn’t really gotten a chance to shine yet. I’m tempted to swap him in if only to actually explore him further.

I was honestly just going to ask people over on my thread which character they’d prefer. The thing is, they’ve got enough in common (in that they both suffer from some degree of PTSD and are generally irritable grumps) that I could swap them out at this stage of drafting without there being too much to change. I couldn’t possibly have both in the same universe or else so much angst might accumulate that the storyverse would implode. :joy:


#6

Imagine a scene where they are in a park and they sit on a bench together and then start swapping stories… heh. You can always marry them too. lol.

Either way, have fun with them and I’m sure you will come up with whatever works the best. Writers tend to be creative with setting and tone for some unknown reason to me. It was recently pointed out to me that stubbornness is a common trait in our field … idk… I am sweet, innocent but stubborn? idk …


#7

I have some old favorites who keep cropping back up. In the comic I’m working on, a delusional woman who can bring things from her mind into existence is based on a character I played in a vampire LARP when I was sixteen. I enjoy her too much not to write her into things, though I think this might be her permanent home. Once I do publish the comic she’d be recognizable if she wandered into another story. While I admire authors like Jim Thompson, who can write the same deranged sheriff or down-on-his-luck grifter into a dozen books, change a detail or two, and keep you coming back for more, I don’t know if I could pull it off.

I think of these people almost like friends. They’re interesting, they have their own voice and history, they’ve grown over the years. One is my go-to alter ego. She’s a Southern aristocrat who’s charming but amoral and frankly a terrible person. if If I’m bored or some stranger is asking me personal questions, it’s fun to start saying outrageous things with a straight face. “Wait, you MAKE ice cubes? I really hadn’t the faintest, I thought servants brought them from glaciers or something.” She made an appearance at a steampunk convention recently, where she lamented the fall of her great family, who were now reduced to trading in unguents and exotic lizards.

…So I guess what I’m saying is that of course characters show back up. If you breathe enough life into them, they become real in a way. They come back around when they have more to say.


#8

That is one very beautiful line right there. That’s kind of what it feels like right now. It’s as if, in my headspace, this one character of mine is just nudging me and saying, “I can handle this.”


#9

Done it several times.

Did one story where nearly every character from past stories made an appearance in some way. It essentially acted as a mega sequel for a lot of stories and in some cases as a prequel for others.

If you like using characters you’ve created I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t use them in other stories as long as it makes logical sense and you’re tying everything together well.


#10

just gonna go off the topic title and flat out say

if its a continuation of the story than using old characters is fine but if for instance its zombie exodus compared to zombie exodus:safe haven then reusing old characters is a way of showing the similarity of the stories and how close they both really are to each other character wise so when it has jasons girlfriend as the, i think it was the con artist or maybe the hacker either way it adds a different side to it from the mentioned characters in the story.


#11

Of course, it’s probably how I actually come up with most of my stories. I come up with a character first and sometimes they don’t quite fit the world I’ve created. But then it’s as if they pop back up to tell me that I did put them in the wrong world, but here’s this right one where they belong. And suddenly there’s a whole story revolving around the fact that I’ve discovered the place where they really do belong.

Often times they’re not even the main character. Sometimes a side character or a character you thought had a unique back story but ended up scrapping because they added nothing can turn into the basis for an entirely new world. Or sometimes its not an entirely new world but one that you had already that they just fit into better than the original. Or maybe the story was lacking something and you look at this one character and realize that they’re essentially the missing plot piece.


#12

This is scintillating. I have an old, favourite character who’s never really gone over very well, and I’ve yet to find a good iteration…maybe that’s why, I was in the wrong story. Hmm, now I have a fun new idea of what story might suit. Thank you for the excellent (and very Lewis Carrollian) perspective!


#13

If the setting for my story wasn’t in a small town, I’d probably try and squeeze one one them as a side character, but… like I’d said, I don’t think the town could possibly handle to angst lords. Together, they’d breach the fourth wall and spread their angst onto us, and I don’t think we want that.

In all seriousness though, the complication I find myself mostly facing is that… the character I want to swap in is mute 'cause of reasons I don’t want to give away just yet. Swapping him in would require me to essentially rewrite/rethink all the scenes involving the original character. Now, it wouldn’t be so bad if the interactions were with just the character himself since both of them prefer to speak with actions rather than words, but all the scenes I had drafted involving him and the other companions would have to be either scrapped or heavily rewritten to accommodate the somewhat drastic change. :sob:

I think, ultimately, I’ll just have to decide whether he’d be able to fit the role the story demands better.


#14

Um, Vex the demon was first concocted by my co-author Tony about 8 years before he ended up in our joint game, “So, You’re Possessed!” In fact, his character’s rivalry with Mac was originally supposed to be the premise for his own web comic or graphic novel and he was used in a few of Tony’s art school projects before those fizzled out and we were trying to brainstorm other ideas later. Oddly enough, bringing him into this story and the CoG format necessitated extensive rewrites of almost every other character around him we came up with, plus the addition of new ones, but I think it worked out far better that way.

In other words, I guess I echo the idea that you can basically do whatever you want with your own characters and intellectual property. As long as it’s fun and feels correct to you as a writer. Have confidence in your own creative instincts, they are usually right, even (or sometimes especially) if it seems to take a little more work. Good luck!


#15

I’ve thought about it and see no problem with it so long as the character belongs solely to you, or if created with another is used with the others consent as well. Personally I was thinking of making brief cameos of my characters into my other WIPs. Maybe even have one or two play a role or two in them.

Then again among my WIPs I plan on making them all fits into the same world. How that will work? Lots of hard work, headaches, and coffee, but it does give me some better leeway in inserting and reusing old characters should they appear in multiple stories.


#16

Oh god, I do this all the time. I have so many projects that never come to fruition, and I like to save my favorites from the wreckage, haha.

To be completely and totally honest, I’ve even taken characters I really enjoyed from other people’s books/movies and fit them into my own stories. I obviously change them a lot, but even heavily edited they usually retain their soul. Actually, now that I think about it, I use the same process when I make people I actually know into characters… Hm…

I’m with ToxicDreams, I think you said that perfectly!


#17

Re-using characters is probably not as uncommon as you might think. I know both Stephen King and Bret Easton Ellis frequently have had character visits from other stories. I’m sure there are more.


#18

True facts! King, off the top of my head, really likes that Flagg fella.

…this is something I personally need to keep tacked to the front of my mind. Thanks for this.


#19

I struggled with this for so long, too! I understand how hard it is to put faith in that inner author’s voice, especially when we also tend to be our own worst critics! Please keep at it, the longer you listen and more you trust yourself, the stronger it becomes, I promise. Your characters will practically tell you where they need to go, if you let them. :relaxed:


#20

Actually, I did this several times already. :smile: If I compare to video games, it’s kinda similar to Breath of Fire series. The protagonist is always named Ryu, has blue-colored hair, and could transform into dragon (and if I’m not mistaken, he always mute too). Or, some fanfictions are basically reusing “old characters” for new stories.

IMHO, there’s no problem by reusing old characters for new stories. It’s always interesting to see how your characters react in entirely different situation in each story.