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Are 'recurring characters' a good idea?

This is a thing that happens (mostly) in series of games.
Final Fantasy for example has Cid, who shows up in SOME form or version in pretty much all of them.
The Xeno-something (Blade/Gears/Saga) has Vandam who appears in some form or other. (and usually dies for some reason.)
I think the most Notable/recognizable one would probably be Tingle from Zelda.

These characters don't always look/act the same, but they're 'returning' characters in the series, most often with the same/similar name.

I wonder if this could be done in writing, cause there's this character idea I have who'd be fun to use for that.
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
I see this plenty in the movies, but i am not recalling any books ive read that have this.

But the idea is not good or bad. Doing this either fits to story or it doesn’t. If you have this idea, and you think it would be a fun thing to do, give it a go.

Maybe elric had this with whole eternal champion thing.
 

Queshire

Auror
Sure, you can do it, but the scale involved can be daunting. You'd need multiple stories to pull it off, and you'd generally need each of those stories to follow different protagonist.
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
Works well for us, but we also write urban fantasy on an epic fantasy scale, so we muddle the two a bit. Book 5 is going to bring several recurring characters back into play and then it'll be off to the races. These are characters who we haven't seen since the first book or only in the between-the-books flashes and shorts, so this should be fun. :D

Sure, you can do it, but the scale involved can be daunting. You'd need multiple stories to pull it off, and you'd generally need each of those stories to follow different protagonist.
We write ensemble, which means we routinely write from multiple perspectives in each book, and always in 3rd Person Past Tense Limited. Usually 7 - 9 or so. We don't have traditional main protagonists who are our primary windows into the story. Instead the character with the POV is the character with the biggest stakes in any given chapter. It's not difficult, but it does take practice. And practice is the name of the game in our industry.
 

Mad Swede

Auror
If you set your stories in a common setting like a village or town, or around a castle or something similar then you will probably get recurring characters simply because someone has to be the cook or the innkeeper or the local blacksmith. After that you as the author choose what soprt of role these characters have - and that role may vary between stories.
 
If you set your stories in a common setting like a village or town, or around a castle or something similar then you will probably get recurring characters simply because someone has to be the cook or the innkeeper or the local blacksmith. After that you as the author choose what soprt of role these characters have - and that role may vary between stories.
I was thinking more along the lines of a character who generally has the same/similar personality, but fills different roles in the narrative.
Like with the Vandahm thing, he pretty much always meets his end shortly after the party meets him. But the purpose of his death in the narrative is usually different.

I was thinking something like a sneaky multi-universal merchant who appears accross most of my stories in some form or other. There are no hints or implications that it's the 'same' character to the rest of the party. But to the reader they're like 'I wonder when x will show up'
 
I’m going to make an assumption here that you might not read all that much, because there are plenty of literary examples of all kinds out there -

Off the top of my head Haruki Murakami and Stephen King are big authors who use recurring characters across their fiction. Some might appear to be the same character, other times it might be a parallel world with a very similar character to one from another book.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
Recurring characters are common in fantasy tales. I have multiple such characters in my stories.

As to this...

I was thinking more along the lines of a character who generally has the same/similar personality but fills different roles in the narrative.

My first thought is 'Archetype.'

My second thought is that incorporating this character in the way described speaks to organizational issues with the story and worldbuilding. Having the same character appear and die repeatedly, or similar characters who somehow mimic each other's roles and personalities - that speaks to, well, laziness.

That said, I have been mulling over an issue of similar nature in my tales. First off, we have Sir Benedict DuPaul, heroic knight of the Traag War and his wife to be Cora, a half-elf 'Godborn' sorceress and healer. Right now, they make a minor appearance in the 'Empire' series but take on more prominent roles in other as yet unpublished tales - enough so to where they might warrant an entire book of their own. Ok, fair enough.

Next up, playing strong secondary roles in 'Empire: Spiral,' fifth book of the 'Empire' series, we have 'Sir Lucius Fabius,' a former Templar Captain (Paladin) and disgraced hero of the Traag War, and his wife, the Godborn sorceress and healer Gardenia, also known as 'Goldie.' At this point, they don't appear in any other stories...but that could change.

Third, we have Sir Peter Cortez, a knightly hero of the Traag war, bearer of a blade blessed by a saint - and his future wife, Tia Samos of Equitant, two of the central characters of the 'Empire' series. Tia isn't a magician, but she does have a plethora of weird dreams and the potential to learn a bit of magic. Peter, for his part, was a member of Sir Benedicts company of knights, and both of them knew of Sir Lucius Fabius.

So, what I have here are three sets of somewhat similar characters s- knightly hero men paired with magical women - except that is only sort of the case - each has a unique backstory and reasons for becoming what they are. Still, the parallels are cause for caution.
 
I’m going to make an assumption here that you might not read all that much, because there are plenty of literary examples of all kinds out there -

Off the top of my head Haruki Murakami and Stephen King are big authors who use recurring characters across their fiction. Some might appear to be the same character, other times it might be a parallel world with a very similar character to one from another book.
I've tried reading a few times, it doesn't grab me as much as other forms of media does though. I think it's just the silence. The weird thing about reading is that when a book DOES grab me, it holds my attention. I'm not sure if that makes any sense? I have a hard time sitting down to read also even if I found a book I like.

For this particular character, I was thinking that it's multiple versions of this character in different universes (that are more or less connected in some way potentially by them, as a source of chaos in whatever world they visit) I was thinking it'd be cool to have their first few appearances be somewhat coincidental but if you examine the larger details and times which they appear, they were clearly up to something all those times they showed up.

Kind of a they actually ARE alternate entities of the same character, with minor to major variations based on the world they appear in. But they're all connected. Maybe the big bad of the biggest bads is secretly them all along.
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
I've tried reading a few times, it doesn't grab me as much as other forms of media does though. I think it's just the silence. The weird thing about reading is that when a book DOES grab me, it holds my attention. I'm not sure if that makes any sense? I have a hard time sitting down to read also even if I found a book I like.

For this particular character, I was thinking that it's multiple versions of this character in different universes (that are more or less connected in some way potentially by them, as a source of chaos in whatever world they visit) I was thinking it'd be cool to have their first few appearances be somewhat coincidental but if you examine the larger details and times which they appear, they were clearly up to something all those times they showed up.

Kind of a they actually ARE alternate entities of the same character, with minor to major variations based on the world they appear in. But they're all connected. Maybe the big bad of the biggest bads is secretly them all along.

Its okay, I dont like to read either.

I also particularly dont care for Mr. King, so I missed his recurring character.

I can think of movies where this happens, but no so many books. As someone said above, to do it, I would need more than one series.

I think it could be said Conan did this. As Conan, Kull, and some others were hinted at being reincarnated spirits of each other.

I might say, Clint Eastwood did this too, with his many 'man with no name' movies. Were they all the same character, or were they different? I dont know. I like to think they were the same.

Doesn't Jiminy Cricket show up in more than one movie?

I would think Stan Lee counts as this, making a cameo in every movie. Had many speculating he was really the Watcher, or some similar character.

I suppose I have seen this happen in comic books, where heroes from one story line show up in another, but I would call that fuzzy.

I think Q might count as this as well, having shown up in several series's of Star Trek, even where contact between characters should be near impossible. Regardless of which Star Trek it is, it should be understandable that Q could be there.

And of course, Ant Man, who appears in every Marvel Film, but is usually so small, no one can see him.


Anyway...without multiple stand alone book, or series's, could this even be done?
 
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I think I will write that particular character that I aim to do this with in their premiere story first before I decide anything. Right now that particular character is an amusing bundle of chaos, but I don't know how she'll hold up as an entertaining character in a story.
But I gotta finish hound and fox first, which will take a bit.
 
Michael Moorcock did this all the time - especially the characters from his Jerry Cornelius universe. They turned up all the time in unrelated stories. I've done it - I have a couple of characters who've turned up in multiple books, and are always shadowy side characters.
 
I think Discworld by Terry Pratchett is a great example of how to do this.

Discworld has many recurring characters. Some are only walk-on characters that keep showing up, like a dodgy street vendor. Others have their own mini-series inside the Discwold (the whole thing is something like 20 or 30 novels). So you would have a 5 novel mini-series featuring the Watch or Rincewind or Death. And then you could have those main characters do a cameo in one of the other novels. Death for instance has a bunch of novels where he's one of the main characters, but he shows up in pretty much all Discworld novels (there's always someone dying...).

The thing with this is that returning readers will like it if a favorite character shows up, while new readers will just accept that there's a random named character. It gives returning readers nice easter eggs, where they'll be happy to have spotted them. Of course, don't make it crucial to your plot if you only have the character have one or two lines.

Another example is Brandon Sanderson. He's got a complete interconnected universe. But it's fairly subtle in most books, where only avid fans will pick up on all the clues. Casual readers will just read the book and enjoy it without that extra knowledge.
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
I am not sure mr pratchet is in the spirit of the question. Were not all his books on the same disc world where characters crossing stories would not be far fetched?
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
While not a character, john ratzenberger might fit this, as he appears in all the pixar movies. Those stories are mostly not related.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
I am not sure mr pratchet is in the spirit of the question. Were not all his books on the same disc world where characters crossing stories would not be far fetched?
No. Pratchett had multiple tales set elsewhere, especially the contemporary UK. The main 'crossover character' would be Death.
 
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