Characters Who Float

I knew it had to happen at some point. The other day, I open my internship email and look at the stuff under my pretty blue label to be read. Lo and behold, there’s a YA novel and it’s about a girl who goes into a coma and her spirit is floating around, watching her family and particularly connecting with her sister.

So I had a total “Holy shit” moment. It’s all right, though, because it didn’t have body switching. Or, as Brixton says, “Your spirit got…transferred.” I mean, hell, I re-watched “Just Like Heaven” before starting this story just to see how they did it and to be sure I didn’t do it the same way.
I’m writing the synopsis–it’s coming along quite nicely, thanks for asking–and I’ll post it when I’m done with it. Then it’s on to read-through and looking for contests!
Here’s something I was wondering about though. You know those characters in books who are there, maybe say a few lines, but don’t really serve a purpose? Maybe they’re devices for conveying something (like how great the character is or how awful the character is or they’re there for setting), but they don’t really do anything.
So I seem to have a lot of them floating around. Ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends of my protagonists, college roommates, family members, etc. They’re mentioned, some of them even speak, but they don’t serve a greater integral purpose to the story except to illuminate the main characters.
In that way, I suppose, it’s like life. People come in and out of your life and hopefully, you learn something from them–I’m a big believer in everything happens for a reason (it’s amazing how philosophical one can get during a recession)–but fiction doesn’t work like that. The beauty and frustration of writing is that you control everything and mostly everything has a purpose and is organized, etc.
Of course, since you supposedly control everything (a fallacy if I’ve ever heard one–you try having demanding voices in your head who want to go their way and see how much you actually control), it’s your fault if something isn’t quite right.
So how you feel about floaty characters? Do they get on your nerves?

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