Supporting Characters (and why you can’t neglect them)

characters2

Supporting characters, many times, are just as crucial to your novel as your main character.  They are the ones who stand by your main character’s side, befriend them, torture them, or love them.  Ultimately, they shape who your main character is. They are super important.

 

Many times when I’m reading a novel, if the supporting characters are done well, one of them might be my favorite character in the story.  They’re there to provide, support, conflict and interest.

 

Sadly, many authors (me included) fall into the rut of creating flat and boring supporting characters.  But if your main character is the only one who is interesting and real, the story isn’t going to live up to it’s full potential.  Remember, every one of your characters is a person with wants and fears and secrets – so make sure you make that known.

 

Here are some tips on developing supporting characters:

 

  • Write a one page (or a few paragraphs) rant for each of your supporting characters.  What do they think about the circumstances happening in your story?  Are they scared, excited, annoyed?  How do they feel about the other characters?  Any love triangles going on, conflicted relationships, etc.
  • Write a one page (or a few paragraphs) rant for your villain – why they are doing what they’re doing and why they’re right.  Remember, the villain doesn’t consider themselves a villain at all; to them, they are the hero.
  • Write your supporting characters as if they think the story is about them.  They are people too – they’re not just there to “support” your character, even if that’s what you intended them to do.
  • Ask yourself why and how this character comes into your story.  You might think your supporting character comes into the story to be a best friend to your main character, but that’s not what your supporting character thinks.  What reasons do they have for being part of this story?  Were they forced into the situation, do they feel they need to stick by your main character’s side because they are a family member or loved one?
  • Spend just as much time thinking up your supporting characters and you think up your main characters.  Think up back stories, wants, fears and secrets.

 

So those are just a few suggestions that helped me with my supporting characters.  I also have more character development questions in a previous post here: https://paulinecharris.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/questions-to-ask-when-creating-a-character/

Hope this helps and good luck!

 

~ Pauline

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