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.
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.
If you enjoyed this post, kindly share it with others. If you have a suggestion for a future one, please leave a comment and let’s get chatting. You may subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “subscribe” or “profile” link on the bottom right-hand side of this article. I post new material every Monday.
Image: Rennette Stowe