Do your Minor Characters have Character?

Shadow of figure

Minor Characters:

Do the minor characters in your story exude personality? Do they have small but noticeable ticks? Are they memorable in some or other way? If not, they need to be. Crafted well, minor characters will raise the overall standard of your story to new heights.

In Body Heat, for example, D.A. Assistant, Ted Danson, is a minor character who pretends he is Fred Astaire, doing dance steps whenever he gets the chance. Odd but strangely captivating.

In Down Periscope, writer David Ward creates a wonderful array of minor characters for his Lt. Dodge to engage with:

Nitro, the electrician is dumb, erratic, but very efficient at his job. It’s as if his I.Q. has dropped as a result of all the electrical shocks he’s received over the years. In order to have Lt. Dodge communicate with his superiors, Nitro has to turn himself into a conducting conduit each time!

Engineer Howard Elder is a sailor with many years of experience, which seem to have made him eccentric, if not downright wacky. He sports a filthy Hawaiian shirt and stubble. It’s as if Pearl Harbour has traumatized him so that time has stood still and he has never changed clothes.

Executive Officer “Mart” Pascoe is rigid and authoritative with a bad temper. His intimidation tactics are compensation for his diminutive stature. He repeats orders from Lt. Dodge, by shouting them at the crew at the top of his voice.

In The matrix, the Oracle is a minor character loaded with strong habits and mannerisms. She smokes like a chimney, drawing on her cigarette with excessive deliberateness, is obsessed with baking, and never answers a question directly.

In Dark City, detective Eddie Walenski, played by Colin Friels, is obsessed with drawing circular patterns on the walls in his dark hole of a room. He moves and laughs like a man who has seen the dark truth about existence and it has tipped him over into madness.

Although the characters mentioned in the examples above are indeed minor in terms of the time and space they occupy in the story, each is made memorable through colorful mannerisms, ticks, or obsessions stemming from their backstory.

Summary

Minor characters need not be bland and uninteresting, serving the plot only. Giving them quirks, ticks, bumps, and scratches will help to make them more memorable thereby increasing the quality of your story.

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Image: Rennette Stowe
License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

2 thoughts on “Do your Minor Characters have Character?

  1. Stavros Halvatzis Post author

    Thank you Marjorie. If you have any topics you’d like to see discussed, please let me know through this forum.

    Reply

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