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Feb 16, 2018

Analysis: Creating Your Minor Characters


Keeping with this week’s theme of creating the minor characters in your comic, I’m going to review three helpful articles I found on the subject and summarize the main points.

 

When creating your own series, minor characters can be easily overlooked, but they really do leave an impact with viewers. It’s worth it to put the same care into creating your minor characters as you do for your major characters.

            The first article I read was 10 Secrets to Creating Unforgettable Supporting Characters by Charlie Jane Anders. The article’s advice can be applied to more than just comics, these points fit any type of story you’re creating. Here are the ten points in the article:

  1. Give them at least one defining characteristic.
  2. Give them an origin story.
  3. Make sure they talk in a distinctive fashion.
  4. Avoid making them paragons of virtue, or authorial stand-ins.
  5. Anchor them to a particular place.
  6. Introduce them twice – the first time in the background, the second in the foreground.
  7. Focus on what they mean to your protagonists.
  8. Give them an arc - or the illusion of one.
  9. The more minor the character, the more caricature-like they may have to be.
  10. Decide which supporting characters you’ll allow to be forgettable after all.

The article’s author does a good job explaining each of these points, but my advice is to focus on points one and seven. The top priority for any minor character is to support and enhance the overall story, so just keep that in mind and you’ll be fine. If anyone wants to read the full article, it can be found here.

            The second article, What Are Supporting Characters and How to Write Them Into Your Novel, aside from having an unnecessarily long title, discusses six helpful tips when creating your characters. Each point has about a paragraph of reasoning behind it, so it’s definitely worth a read if you’re looking for advice. The author’s main points are the following:

  1. Balancing Character Traits
  2. Tormenting Your Hero
  3. Fleshing Out Their Supporting Cast
  4. Naming Supporting Characters
  5. Introducing Minor Characters
  6. Adding Authenticity

Each point is well made, and I especially liked the author’s point about naming minor characters, and giving some of them nicknames that help reflect their personality. However, I strongly disagree with the point about avoiding unique or “weirdly exotic” names, in my experience unique names are one of the fastest ways for fans to remember your characters. This is even more important for minor characters since they’ll be receiving less screen time and dialogues. If anyone is interested, the full article can be read here.

            The final article, Top Ten Tips for Writing Memorable Minor Characters, by Susan Kouguell, talks about the importance of minor characters, and how they are often overlooked by writers. I really agree with her point, minor characters are often an afterthought by series creators simply because they have the word “minor” in front, but they really do have an impact on main characters. It’s the job of the writer to make sure the impact is a positive, not a negative. Minor characters can still have major consequences. Here are the ten points Susan’s article makes:

  1. Use minor characters to propel your plot forward.
  2. Minor characters can act as a sounding board, a mirror to the protagonist’s soul, and/or knowingly or unknowingly assist your protagonist in achieving his or her goal.
  3. Minor characters can help advance the protagonist’s storyline forward, reveal information, and/or give additional insight about major characters, including back-story, which will help you to avoid writing exposition.
  4. Use minor characters to assist in creating or reinforcing the mood and tone of your script, and to give color to the world you have created.
  5. Utilize minor characters to further reveal the atmosphere and era of your setting.
  6. Minor characters can bring a different perspective to your story.
  7. Minor characters can prevent your protagonist from running away from a problem or encourage your protagonist not to run away.
  8. Take advantage of your minor characters by having them provide insight into your main characters’ storylines.
  9. Minor characters’ behaviors, attitudes, and idiosyncrasies, will help to set the tone of a scene.
  10. Each minor character in your screenplay must serve a purpose, otherwise cut them.

As with all the points I’ve listed in this blog, some are more important than others, but all of them are worth reading and thinking about. Out of the ten points in Susan’s article, I actually think number ten is the most important, and I would have put it at number one. Minor characters definitely need a purpose, even if it’s a simple one. In fact, I would argue that when you’re creating minor characters, if you can’t find a purpose for them in your series, they’re not worth including at all. Susan’s article can be read here.

            Hopefully these articles are helpful, I’ll continue to try and find the best advice I can for future analysis blogs. The theme for next week’s blog will be growing an online fan base for your series. If there are any topics you’d like me to cover, please email me at webmaster@spiritwarriorstv.com.

Best Wishes,

Jeff