Part One: Your First LessonA Lesson by Thorn
A lot of rambling, and a few small things to keep in mind when creating minor characters.
Okay. So, picture this. You're thumbing through a brilliant novel, with a wonderful protagonist who you actually care about and a brilliantly not-too-cliched-but-still-villainously-villainous villain.
Or, if you prefer, a protagonist who is a complete dickhead, and a villain who is a Complete Monster (grey and gray morality, anyone?).
Anyway, so you're reading this completely amazing book, and suddenly something strikes you. You stop, open mouthed, unable to believe that such an amazing book could have such a horrible flaw.
All the minor characters are very similar, if not exactly the same.
Perhaps they're all tree lovers, or wide-eyed young idealists. Maybe all the men are butch "he-men", and the women little more than ditzy bimbos. Perhaps the men are the bimbos, and the women all seem like they're on steroids. Whatever the case, these repetitive minor characters shall surely destroy any sense of reality an author wants to convey to readers of their work.
So, as a writer, how do you deal with minor characters? I mean, their name says it all- you can't flesh them out properly, or else your work will end up with sixty protagonists and no-one will have any idea what the hell is going on.
Well, for a start, bear in mind a few simple things:
1. NOT ALL CHILDREN ARE ANNOYING LITTLE S***S...
...or wide eyed and innocent, or morbid and satanic. If there are some random little kiddies playing in, lets say, a bar, try to show some differences between them. Is there one who is more exuberant than their companions, and one who would rather stay with his parents than start jumping on the tables ? There are so many books (and movies) where it seems as though there are just a bunch of identical-clone-kids hanging out in some bar/school/playground. Unless your story is about a bunch of clones, which could be pretty awesome, you should steer clear of this pitfall.
(This goes for other characters, too. Not all seven-footers play basketball, for instance. I know one who teaches).
2. IT'S EASY TO CREATE A FEW QUIRKS...
...even in minor characters. You could maybe point out a nervous tick, a funny mannerism, or an unusual accent belonging to one of your background-dwellers. Don't overdo it, though, especially if your story is more serious- a muffin-loving, stammering, hippie pirate with two heads does not make for good tragedy.
3. EVERY CHARACTER SHOULD FEEL JUST AS REAL AS ANY OTHER...
...even if they're only mentioned in passing. Granted, this may be a bit of an exaggeration- a guy who walks out of a shop can't do much more than that, after all, unless you want to cram your story with truckloads of useless details. But try and keep this in mind for characters who get even a little bit more "screen time" than that- we have to believe in them. Try taking inspiration from people you know. A distinctive walk or oddly dyed hair can make a character just that little bit more real.
Hopefully, you've found this first lesson at least a little bit helpful. There will almost certainly be another one, but I'm not entirely sure what will be in it yet. I'll update this section when I've decided.
Added on October 9, 2011
Last Updated on October 9, 2011
A city with roads in it, New Zealand
AboutI'm Thorn. I like sushi, and my pet axolotl, Mexie. I enjoy sailing, writing, and acting. And playing my flute. ^^ I dislike maths, trying to memorise Shakespeare, and being wrong. But I love my c..