Author Topic: Beware the creeping and insidious Mr Fixit character. He is not your friend.  (Read 247 times)

Gyppo

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   Beware the creeping Mr Fixit character.

   These are the ones you create 'on the fly' to solve problems which are a bit beyond your main characters, or beyond their current abilities.

   When used simply as an expediter, a door-opener as it were, allowing the main characters to develop, then they're acceptable.   But they have a tendency to want a bigger part.  To develop more personality than they need to simply do their job and then fade quietly into the background.  It's as if their ego compels them to try and usurp the  main characters. More about this later.[1]

   Sometimes they deserve to be more than a background boy.  Major Giles Roper, the wheelchair bound computer genius in Jack Higgins 'Dillon' books has grown from being a shadowy fixer to a full-blown character.  He definitely earns his keep within the stories.

   But Higgins never bogs the tale down with too much computing.  Roper taps at a few keys, sets up various alerts and then lets the system work its magic in the background.  "With this system I'm the Hand/Eye of God.  But we have to assume that if I can do this the other side probably have someone equally talented."

   On the other hand his pre-wheelchair bomb disposal skills are still in demand and he can play a very active part with those.

   That's an example of a well-rounded Mr Fixit.  Very much a part of the team, not a 'fly-in' consultant who just waves a magic wand and makes problems go away..

   The ones to avoid are those who magically appear and provide a complete solution for your struggling heroes.   Far better for your story, and its believability, for them to solve it their own way.  Sometimes low animal cunning mixed with fist, boot, or knife is far more believable than a character just looking it up on the web and solving the problem almost by remote control.

   Readers want the main characters to suffer and struggle, it makes the final result far more worthwhile.  They can even fail if they've given it their best shot and stayed true to their own character.   Hollywood has trouble with this concept. ;-)

   At the most basic level take a simple romance.  Boy meets girl, they fall in love, and live happily ever after.  Not much of a story is it?  Throw in challenges like parental disapproval, being on opposite sides of a sectarian divide, and it starts to perk up.   If Mr Fixit  suddenly offers them both a job on the far side of the world, away from all the malignant influences, you'd throw the book across the room wouldn't you?   It's a wonderful solution in real life, just think of all the people who've emigrated to start a new life,   But in fiction it's a story-killer.

   Mr Fixit, used wisely and sparingly, becomes part of the story.  Used because you're too lazy to think through the main characters other and more believable options, he will kill it stone dead.
   
   =====

   [1]  Sometimes a Mr Fixit character just won't shut up, or be reined in.  If you find you've created such a monster then give him or her a book of their own later.   That way they can either shine as a leading light in their own right, or they will wither and die on the vine.   Either way is a definite result.

   ===
« Last Edit: March 11, 2018, 08:03:28 AM by Gyppo »

Jo Bannister

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I've always had a great fondness for secondary characters, my own and other people's.  I think a lot of the richness of a book comes from them.  And because they don't have to behave terribly heroically, they're easy to relate to.

The secret is to give them a proper place in the book and a proper character to fill that space, even if it's only small.  The deux ex machina type of character is a cop out.  "Oh dear, we can only get out of this terrible situation with the help of a nuclear physicist, and unhappily we're all arts graduates.  But look! - who's this coming along the street? - why, if it isn't old Professor Plum, carrying his Nobel prize for physics..."

Never cheat the reader.  He will never forget, and never forgive.

Gyppo

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Good secondary characters are the lubricant between the main cogs.  They quietly help to keep the wheels turning.  There's a good reason why all 'dashing young officers' in Military stories have a pragmatic and unflappable sergeant to 'keep them alive until they learn what they're doing'.

Where would Lee Child's Jack Reacher be without his Frances Neagley?  He gets by, but she definitely adds something to the stories where she appears without making too much of herself.  If she ever gets a book of her own I'd have to buy it to get to know her better.

Uncles and Grandads, or Aunties and Grandmas, make good secondaries as well.  The family connection makes their sometimes unorthodox help perfectly plausible.  Plus they can do things which wouldn't ring true for a parent.

Cousins are another useful 'floater', in that in some cultures the blood tie is important even if the characters don't particularly like each other.

Gyppo