A minor or supporting character is vital in developing a well-crafted novel. For example:
- Harry Potter and Mr. Filch
Filch delights in the misery of the students and is still far from likable; however, he is devoted to Hogwarts.
- Office Space and Milton Waddams
Milton is famous for his rant about the red Swingline stapler. He is a disgruntled employee who brings life to all the mistreated employees in all possible ways.
- Wonderful Wizard of Oz and the Munchkins
They are there to further the plot, give Dorothy some insight into what she needs to get home, or to see the Wizard. Without them, there would be no one to fear the Wicked Witch of the West.
All supporting characters need to be memorable even though they appear in limited scenes. While having these minor characters in your novel, they should be used to further the plot by providing subtle insights and helping or hindering the hero.
Don’t just throw them into your novel. Take the time to develop them, enabling them to provide insight into your main character without using an info dump.These characters need to have a reason for being there. If they don’t advance the plot, they need to go. Remember it can be a small part, or an addition to the subplot, but they must serve a purpose.
Use your minor characters to ground the reader in a place, adding stability to your novel. You don’t want them to overshadow your hero, but rather give a depth to your hero. These characters make your world building feel real. And who knows—you just might create a character for your next book.
Tips to Crafting a Minor Character
- Propel your plot forward.
- Help the hero achieve his goal.
- Move the story forward, reveal information, and provide insight about major characters, including back-story, in an organic way.
- Enhance the mood and tone of the world you have created.
- Change your hero’s point of view by advising your hero in a positive or negative way.
How do you use your minor characters?
Do your minor characters become major characters in their own novel?
Let us know. We love hearing your thoughts.
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Sometimes I like minor characters so much, they become the focus of a future book in the series. When minor characters are crafted correctly, they can be compelling additions to story worlds. Even an unnamed Uber driver can enrich a story. But a developed secondary character? He can elevate his status in future works while elevating the existing story. I love it when that happens.
I love minor characters and use mine to add some humor to the stoic main characters.
I like that idea. That would lighten the mood.
Good points about minor characters, Michele. They do have a purpose. And I’ve had the experience of developing another book from using a minor character. You never know what one might do for you as a writer.
I know what you mean, Joan. My minor characters do play important roles even if they are only in a few scenes. They help me keep the focus on the plot of the main characters.