Characters #3 - Secondary Characters, Anti-Hero, & Character Memories
"Treat all your secondary characters like they think the book's about them." -Jocelyn Hughes
Remember, each character has a story, goals, strengths, and flaws. Just because a character isn't your main character, doesn't mean you shouldn't flesh them out and give them just as much as a personality as you do your main character.
Many times, the secondary characters get neglected because the author is so focused on the MC, but if you pay attention to the minor characters, they'll pay you back by making your story so much stronger.
1- Brainstorm. Just like you would (and hopefully did) with the main character. Fill out a character bio for the secondary characters. Now, you don't have to do this for every person who makes a single appearance in the book, but just for the main cast which has regular appearances throughout the story.
It's fun and will help you understand each character more! You can feel close to each character, and so can the reader, rather than having a cast of flat, boring people.
2 - Focus on why each character is important. How do they support your main character? How does their presence change the plot? Are there scenes that focus specifically on a secondary character? Knowing all of these things will help you decide who to keep and who to cut. Each character in your story should have a specific purpose for being in your story. It’s often easy to forget that.
I'm not saying they all have to have as much of the spotlight as the MC, but make sure they aren't just floating through the story with no purpose or direction. Sometimes their purpose can just be encouraging the protagonist or being a helpful friend.
3 - Give them at least one defining characteristic.
There's always a sidekick you'll remember, maybe because of a funny quirk, a weird way of talking, or a strange habit. People are like this in real life, too — lots of people have one or two habits that you notice the first time you meet them, that stand out in your mind even after you learn more about them. Try to remember the sidekicks and supporting characters of some of your favorite stories, and pinpoint their defining characteristics.
Samwise Gamgee (Lord of the Rings) - Humble, unknowingly brave, servant-hearted.
Murtagh (Eragon) - Good fighter, mysterious, withdrawn.
Han Solo (Star Wars) - Flirty, arrogant, know-it-all.
Make your supporting character memorable, not just some wallpaper character who is only there at the protagonists convenience.
4) Decide which supporting characters can be forgotten.
It's a sad thing to forget a character you put time into, but it's also inevitable. You only have so much energy, and your readers only have so much mental space. If you bog down your story with dozens of supporting characters with amazing personalities and pasts that your readers love, then your story may border on seeming overwritten and showy. You'll have to settle with the fact that some characters must end up as simply extras, or that they're literally going to fulfill a plot function without having any personality to speak of. It happens. You can only have so many fleshed-out characters before your reader gets overwhelmed with all the names to keep track of.
WRITING THE ANTI-HERO
I would like to include a passage from a Tumblr blog about writing the anti-hero here. (External link on side.)
The anti-hero has been very popular for a long time because they lack the “typical” traits of a mainstream protagonist (Think Batman). They have most likely been through some hard times and developed a cynical attitude along the way. There are many different kinds of anti-heroes, however, and not everyone will fall into the same category.
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