Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Minor Characters are Real People Too.

Minor Characters are the forgotten heroes. They are the supporting actors who never reach the lime light. Because of their very nature, they require less detail and a lower word count, but they are no less important to a story.

Minor Characters have many functions. They are the cogs that keep the machine of your novel running. They are there to support the Main Characters. They are there to enrich the story. They are there to populate your worlds or to push the plot forward.

But they are more than just a function. Minor Characters are real people too and, like real people, they cry out for attention. They can have backgrounds and reactions and feelings. They can be unusual. They can have secrets. They can intrigue.

As long as we balance how much we give our Minor Characters, by making them interesting, they can help to breathe life into our novels.

Do you spend much time thinking about your minor characters? Has a character ever started as a minor and ended as a main character?

25 comments:

  1. It is so funny that you say this today. I've recently been thinking about one of my wips and I've focused so much on the main character that I forgot one minor character inparticular, and guess what I found out. My minor character should be my main character but I didn't take the time to notice!

    Awesome post!

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  2. I seem to fall in love with all my characters. Even the baddies. :) They're good company.

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  3. Jen, that's so great. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes the minor characters end up being more natural because we don't try to force them.

    M Pax, Baddies are great fun. I always have a hard time killing off my favourite minor characters. I had to do it the other day and it was very sad.

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  4. This is great stuff here! I'm so glad you found my blog so I could find yours. Now to read the post on cardboard characters!

    KarenG

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  5. even when reading, it seems like the minor characters are always my favorites! but then i love a neglected underdog.

    in my wip, there was a character who was supposed to be very minor, but he would not be kept in the corner and probably has the third or fourth most significant role in the story.

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  6. Just today I wrote the first chapter of my newest book- I know who the secondary characters wll be but that's it. Guess I have some work to do. thanks!

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  7. Excellent point! THere's three minor characters in my novel who I've debated back and forth if I should gave them more "screen" in the lastest draft I've opted for YES. One extra paragraph in a 73K book isn't going to hurt anything.

    Personally I"ve always liked the minor characters more than the major ones. Give me Willow and OZ over Buffy and Angel.

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  8. I've been really trying to develop an interesting backstory and a full personality and voice for all of my secondary characters. Even though I know a lot of it won't make it into the MS, I hope it will make the characters stronger.

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  9. Karen, welcome to my blog. it's good to have you here. :)

    Aspiring, lol yep, I think you described it well: minor character is often the neglected underdog.

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  10. Erinn, I once added a single paragraph to a wip and it changed everything. There were so many repercussions to those brief words. Painful, but worth it :)

    Willow and Oz rocked!

    Melissa, putting that time into your minor characters will make a difference, for sure.

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  11. I've just finished reading the Stieg Larsson series and the character I thought was secondary ended up being the main character - it was really well done!

    One great thing about minor characters is you can give them annoying traits (vain, selfish, rude) because the reader only gets them in small doses :-)

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  12. Ha, I hadn't thought of it that way, Charmaine. Good pick up.

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  13. Yes, I do think of them, though perhaps not as much as I should. Lovely to connect with another Australian writer. Thanks for finding me on twitter.

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  14. yes, I was thrilled to see you were on twitter :)

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  15. I actually do spend an enormous amount of time on minor characters. I try to figure how they will interact with the protagonist and how they can add conflict or resolution to the plot.

    I once had a minor character become a major character and it caused a little bit of chaos because then the story took an entirely different direction. Great post.

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  16. Chary, making a minor character into a main is lots of fun. I love the way the whole story changes when that happens

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  17. Is it sad that right now I love some of my minor characters more than my main ones? :/

    PS--If you have a chance, stop by my blog to pick up an award :)

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  18. Sounds like everyone's in agreement. I love it when a minor character takes over. sometimes they demand their own book! Good stuff Lynda. I'm glad I found you..or you found me..:)

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  19. Thanks so much for the award, Rosie. And no, it's not sad you like your minor characters more than your mains. It seems to be a common thing.

    L'Aussie, it is great isn't it. And yes, I'm so glad we have found each other's blogs :)

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  20. I've never had any of my minor characters end up as main ones, but they do become very important, sometimes stealing the show and then I have to put them back in their place ;)

    Thank you so much for dropping by my blog today :)

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  21. WritingNut, yes, sometimes our characters take too much control (usually the wrong ones)

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  22. I usually build my minor characters with broad brush strokes punctuated with small but sharp detail in one area, a sort of micro/macro approach to character construction.

    Yes, minor characters can certaily evolve. A minor character in my first novel is a central character in my second.

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  23. (= What would our MCs be without the secondary characters! They really flesh out the book and give our MCs something to play off of. Sometimes, my secondary characters are my fave.

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  24. Oh wow. This is truly food for thought.

    Something else bothers me though: how about the development of two major characters? Where both play an equally important role in the story? Does one HAVE to be main main main? Or is that a role they can both, reasonably, share?

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  25. Ruthibelle, That's an interesting question. It would depend on how you handle your POV. If your two Mains have equal time in the POV, or if you have a narrative POV, then sure there is no reason why you can't have equal MCs. Generally though (but not always), there will be one character that out-weighs the others -- even if it's slight.

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I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.