I spent part of yesterday and most of the day before working on the outline/prospectus for Untitled Novel 2018 (sorry, we're still stuck with a temp title). One big obstacle was nailing down a key character in the cast who wasn't well-defined.
Then I reached back — way back — back into time! — and pulled out the notes I had for the story that featured the original incarnation of the central conceit used in this story. And wuddyaknow, there was a character roster. And in that character roster was a certain character, Teryl Heylinde, who had bounced from one story to another over the years, never quite finding a home. (Henré Sim from Flight Of The Vajrahad suffered a similar fate.) With a little tweaking, that character fit the bill just about perfectly.
Doing this freed me up in a number of ways. For one, the character being replaced — name of Rory — was now freed up to serve some other, more suitable, purpose in the plot. His attitude, his personality, and his function in the story all previously seemed at odds with each other. Popping Rory out of that specific role meant he could be dropped in anywhere else.
I always get uneasy about the way people at the center of a story run the risk of being made blander than the supporting characters, as a way to make them more accessible, or to bear the load of a particular kind of story. On the other hand, a character who's too pungent runs the risk of letting the story run away with them, and not in a good way.
Some people respond to this by saying, why not let the characters do the steering anyway? Isn't a story about nothing more than character as expressed through action? Sure, but some kinds of pungency of character don't work to that end. Some people are just grandstanders, showoffs. They're best off in a secondary or tertiary role, because the story isn't really about their flamboyance or their personalities per se. Stories like that have totally different conceptual and developmental paths anyway.