Monday, March 16, 2009

Minor Characters

We examined main characters yesterday, so how about we consider minor characters for a brief moment? Many of the different writing books I’ve studied warn about letting minor characters take over your story. ‘Keep them in control,’ the seasoned author warns. ‘Don’t let them overshadow your main character.’ Geesh, you’d think they were weeds.

I do agree that one should take care with the time apportioned for lesser roles, but I also think that the nice thing about a story’s secondary set of characters is that unlike the main hero, these folks don’t have the burden of moving the story forward. This, I feel, allows authors more liberty in their development.

All the fun quirks that just wouldn’t work on your main character can be assigned to various minor characters. For instance, I doubt readers would want to suffer through an entire story of reading about a hero with a nervous twitch, but it admittedly makes for a nifty detail on a minor character.

Do you have any guidelines to offer on minor characters? Words of warning?


  1. I don't really have any words of wisdom. But I think you're onto something with not letting the minor characters take over. And I do like a quirky minor character!

  2. In the Nero Wolfe series Archie Goodwin is the sidekick but gets more pages than the main character. Then there's Monk with all his quirks. I say rules are meant to be broken as long as it's done well.

  3. C'mon, Barrie, you would never have any quirky characters in one of your books. ;-)

  4. David - I love what you said about the rules being broken. I'm making a note, in fact. Your statement deserves a post all on its own. It's definitely too true regarding any number of subjects.