Why We Love Reoccurring Characters

Amazon’s put Doctor Who (except for Season 9) back onto Prime, so I’ve been catching up. (I continue to have a “this show makes no sense and I’m not sure why I continue to watch it, yet there must be something because I keep watching” relationship with DW.) One of the recent episodes I watched had an occasional reoccurring character that happens to be a favorite of mine, and I may have gotten unnecessarily excited when she showed up.

That got me to thinking about reoccuring characters in general. It seems–and this may be generalizing–that people feel more strongly about their affection for reoccurring characters than main characters, in many cases. Everyone has that character that, when they happen to grace a show, book, movie, etc. with their presence, makes their day.

(Or, alternately, it could be a character that they love to hate. Or just really hate. I’m looking at you, Kai Winn.)

Why do we react stronger to characters we don’t see that often?

Well, my going theory is that we get used to characters we see all the time, so while we relate to them and may feel closer to them (or, for characters we don’t particularly like, just kind of accept that they’re there and deal with it). They lose their impact, to some degree. It’s like the friend you see every day. You’re comfortable with them, you love them, but they’re not necessarily exciting.

Reoccurring characters are like the friend you haven’t seen in a year. It’s an event when they come and visit! It’s something you look forward to. And even better if it’s a surprise, and you open the door one day to find them sitting on their porch (assuming they don’t think they’re staying with you unannounced).

It’s not that they’re better, per se. It’s just the absence makes the heart grow fonder.

I do find it interesting that when a reoccurring character becomes a main or side character for a period of time, it can go really well or really poorly. It really shows how complete of a character that character is when some of that shiny-ness wears off.

Who are your favorite reoccurring characters, Squiders? Any examples of a reoccurring character turned regular that went spectacularly well (or not)? Any experience with your own reoccurring characters?

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Great post. I remember most of these from television though, not books. Going all the way back to Hogan’s Heroes there were recurring characters I remember. Bewitched did a lot of that too.

    Reply

    • Yeah, I feel like there are probably some from books, but a series would have to be long enough to be able to build in a character that only pops up occasionally. I can think of some mystery series that have what I would consider “reoccurring” characters but the issue is that they invariably end up dead.

      Reply

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