No, this is not a post in which I will gush about Gordon Ramsay’s awesome expediting skills.
This post is about a theory I have. A theory about a particular type of character I have seen too many times in fiction. I have also seen a character like this in a TV show.
All you budding writers (or even established ones, if you follow my blog), introducing to you The Expeditor (eks-pi-die-turr): A character who tends to speed up the learning curve of the other characters.
As you already know, there are certain types of characters in every novel.
A protagonist a.k.a. the hero, who gets to kiss the heroine at the end of the book/movie.
An antagonist a.k.a. the villain, whose sole desire is to prevent the above love scene.
A minor character a.k.a. ‘chhotu’, who does each and every thing possible for the protagonist. The antagonist has one ‘chhotu’ too.
A stock character a.k.a. the stereotyped characters like a Goan who speaks Hindi with a swag (no offense intended), the nerdy kid who can recite all the digits after the decimal point of the pi number (again, no offense intended) and the scientist with hair like mine (haha, no offense intended. It’s actually a compliment!)
The list goes on and on: stock characters, round and dynamic characters, flat characters, static characters, symbolic characters and foils.
Getting back to the new character I wish to propose.
The expeditor is someone who brings the factual part of a story together. He/she tends to reduce the number of boring scenes in the novel / movie / TV show, so that the protagonist can move along towards his goal without any hitch.
Let me explain more clearly with the help of examples.
According to my theory, Hermione Granger, of Harry Potter fame, is an expeditor. She is smart, intelligent, gifted with an unnaturally superior memory and is able to navigate through a library like Daedalus navigated through his labyrinth.
Her presence helps Harry Potter and Ron Weasley get out of many sticky situations. Sticky situations in which the solution involved: ‘knowledge about factual information’.
Let’s imagine Hogwarts without Hermione.
Harry and Ron would have been floundering about the castle, having no clue about how to defeat Lord Voldemort. And even if they felt sufficiently motivated to head to the Library and get some reading done, I’m pretty sure they would have dozed off the moment they started reading a book.
In short, the scenes in which Harry needed information to cross an obstacle would have been filled with unimaginative dialogues. Nothing of great consequence would have been discussed (except Exploding Snap and wizard Chess) and the story would have stagnated in some chapters.
With the help of Hermione, JK Rowling put a magical touch to every problem that Harry faced. Be it the Devil’s Snare, the Basilisk, the Summoning Charm or even Harry’s love life, Hermione managed to expedite various scenes, with her extensive knowledge about everything.
For non-Potterheads, I have four more examples coming up.
In Criminal Minds, Dr. Spencer Reid, is the youngest member of FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit. He has three PhDs to his credit, and has an eidetic memory. Did I mention he has an IQ of 187, and can read 20,000 words in one minute? Did I also mention that he’s only 24 years old?
If that description didn’t blow your mind away, I don’t know what can.
Spencer creates credibility in the minds of the viewers. How? He is the one who provides all the statistical information needed by the other members of the Unit. He not only spews out information from his ginormous mind, but can also provide unique insights to the problem at hand.
For Star Wars fans, Artoo is an example of a technological expeditor. (Pardon me if I have made a mistake here, I have only read the first book of the Thrawn trilogy)
Sherlock Holmes fans would agree that he is an expeditor. He had indepth information about human psychology, crime scenes, chemistry, cigars, guns and the violin. And also, disguises.
Prof. Robert Langdon had indepth knowledge about symbology. All the books in which he was the hero were centered around symbology. Hence, there wasn’t much scope for him to display knowledge about other topics. Except swimming, of course.
In both of these cases, the protagonist and the expeditor happen to be the same person.
Reading these examples would have given you a general idea about what must be expected from an expeditor.
To summarise, here are the qualities of an expeditor
- Must be knowledgeable : This is a must. Yet, the expeditor may refer to books / the world wide web to gain more knowledge about a situation. They rarely will consult someone else, and when they do, the person consulted becomes the temporary expeditor (will be explained in later paragraphs)
- Must create an impression of intelligence in the mind of readers/viewers : One should not only play the part, but also look the part. Hence, most expeditors would be portrayed as geeks/nerds with insane IQs and introvertish personalities.
- Must be able to provide information in a thought provoking manner : I’m pretty sure you will agree with me on this one: Hermione, Sherlock, Dr. Reid and Prof. Langdon present information in a way that makes you think. They don’t force it down your throat, nor does the information seem irrelevant or not well-thought-of. The dialogues for these characters have to be clear, precise and informative. They cannot be boring, rhetorical and unimaginative. These characters have a unique ability of making even the pi number seem like a work of art. Enough said.
- Usually replaces any boring scenes of searching for information in the library / computer : A simple test to figure out whether a character is an expeditor or not – A scene without them would lead to the protagonist searching for data using a book or the internet or hunting people down to get more information.
- Doesn’t make the storytelling seem hurried: The expeditor is so good at explaining information, that it feels natural to jump to conclusions by using the expeditor’s knowledge. It does not seem forced, and one can never doubt the knowledge provided by the expeditor.
- Present in book series: All of the above characters are present in book series and TV shows. In individual books, the character would be a temporary expeditor, and would have knowledge about only few specific topics related to the plot.
Relating to point 1 and 6, a temporary expeditor is someone who helps the protagonist when the expeditor is unable to provide certain information. Or when the expeditor does not exist (in individual books).
Though by definition, expeditors are meant to know everything, they too have to follow certain rules about characters : ‘all characters are humans, and hence all characters must have flaws’.
An expeditor consults a temporary expeditor only when he /she feels that
- the temporary expeditor has a better practical knowledge about a situation. Theoretical knowledge can be easily accessed by the expeditor, hence that is not included here.
Example: In ‘Da Vinci Code’, when Prof. Langdon needed help to open the cryptex, he approached Sir Leigh Teabing, a renowned expert on the Holy Grail. Notice that Teabing was an expert in a subset of Religious Symbology, whereas Prof. Langdon had knowledge about almost everything under Religious Symbology.
- the expeditor is in physical distress.
Example: In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Hermione Granger was Petrified. Yet she was able to communicate crucial information about Lord Voldemort through a page torn from a textbook she was reading. Here, the book is a temporary expeditor.
However, there is a disadvantage to using expeditors.
When not executed properly, the expeditor seems like a human version of Google. By ‘not executed properly’, I mean that the author tends to focus only on the nerdy side of the expeditor, and does not create a character with a mind of his / her own. It sometimes seems that the expeditor exists in the book / movie for the sole reason of helping the protagonist or antagonist, and not for any personal ambitions, desires or goals.
To conclude, an expeditor is not just another encyclopedia. He / she is a character with a humane personality, who just happens to use a little more terrabytes of space in his /her head.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about Expeditors. Do you have some Expeditors on your mind now? Or are you currently reading a novel in which an expeditor exists?
Comment below and let me know everything about this theory: whether you agree with it, you disagree with it, some more names to be added to the list and anything else you wish to share.
P.S.: To read more about different types of characters, click here. I have done preliminary research via this link.
To know more about the characters mentioned above, check out these individual links