Making Sure Grronk Doesn’t Turn Into Chuck

Have you ever read a novel or watched a TV series where a character of some prominence appears near the beginning of the story, but then never shows up again?  And, even worse, is never even mentioned again?  It’s as if they never existed in the first place.  Granted, for very minor characters, this isn’t an issue.  In fact, it would be an awkward tale indeed if we felt compelled to bring back even the most trivial of characters for an encore scene.  But if a character leaves an impression, if a character exchanges in a lengthy dialogue or does something noteworthy for the story, it’s probably a good idea to bring them back at a later point, or, at the least, mention them again.

Perhaps one of the most notorious (though often laughed-about) occurrences of this character-who-disappears-act comes from the 1970s sitcom Happy Days.  I have watched reruns of Happy Days many times–guilty as charged!  I especially enjoy the first two seasons, when the show really tried to portray a 1950s look and feel.  Of course, the story revolved around Richie Cunningham (played by Ron Howard).

richie

 

And one of the supporting characters during the first season was Richie’s older brother, Chuck.

chuck

 

Now, it’s true that they never developed Chuck as a character.  He pretty much just chewed gum and dribbled a basketball around everywhere he went.  He had all the depth of an eight-by-ten white envelope (non-self-sealing at that!).  Nevertheless, he was the main character’s brother.  And yet, after season one, he just . . . disappeared.  Gone without a whisper, without a trace.  It was as if he’d never existed at all.  Just a wisp, a figment of viewers’ imaginations from that inaugural season of the show.  Again, given that his character offered nothing of substance to the story line, his boot off the set wasn’t a big deal.  But not to mention him?  Not to say, “Oh, we just got a letter from Chuck.  He’s doing okay at college”?  Not to give even the smallest of details about what became of him?  That’s just sloppy, even if it has morphed into something of a pop culture joke.  They should have acknowledged Chuck’s existence post-season one.

When I wrote The Eye-Dancers, I wanted to make sure I didn’t follow in the same footsteps as Happy Days.  In chapter four of the novel, we meet Marc Kuslanski for the first time.  He of course is one of the four main characters in the story.  But in that same chapter, we also meet Matt Giselmo.  Or, as Joe Marma likes to call him, Grronk.  Grronk is not a major character–but he is significant in his own way, and that becomes clearer after the boys find themselves in the variant town of Colbyville.  I tried to make sure, when I introduced Grronk early on, that he was a memorable character–annoying enough to stay with the reader.  Obnoxious enough to leave an impression.  So when we see him again (or someone very close to him–I’m trying not to insert a plot spoiler here) much later in the book, hopefully we remember him from chapter four.

The key, though, was–after giving Grronk so much screen time in chapter four, I needed to reintroduce him at a later point.  Not to do so would cheat the reader.  Just like Happy Days did with their audience.  I know that I, for one, would like to know what became of old Chuck Cunningham.  Maybe he went off to star in the NBA.  Maybe he drifted around and never found a direction in life.  Maybe he settled down, got married, worked in an office.  The possibilities are endless.

What happened to Chuck? . . .  Sounds like the basis for a story.  Maybe I should go ask Grronk.  He’s bound to have some ideas.

Thanks for reading!  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.

–Mike

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kelihasablog
    Dec 26, 2012 @ 19:35:57

    Yes, and you did that quite well I might add… I loved the way you slid that one in there…. 😀

    Reply

  2. Carrie Rubin
    Dec 26, 2012 @ 19:53:23

    Yeah, Chuck kind of vanished, didn’t he? Great point that we shouldn’t do the same to our own characters. The same goes for not bringing in a character at the end to help ‘save the day’ or tie up the ending. If a character is that important, he or she needs to be introduced beforehand.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Dec 26, 2012 @ 20:54:21

      That’s a very good point. Bringing in a character at the end to save the day often feels very contrived and is probably even worse than what Happy Days did with Chuck!

      Reply

  3. Sheslosingit.net
    Dec 27, 2012 @ 01:05:17

    That’s pretty funny. I remember watching an actor interview and he said he was cast in a soap opera once and one day his character left to get a box of pizza and never returned…maybe he’s with Chuck?

    Lisa
    http://sheslosingit.net

    Reply

  4. errinspelling.wordpress.com
    Dec 16, 2013 @ 16:59:48

    on everybody loves ray, his wife had a sister who was in just one episode.where is she…..king of queens, carrie had a sister at the beginning , then never again.

    Reply

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