Your main characters may need some work, but for this particular blog I would like to focus on those ‘fly by’ characters that step into your novel, do what you want them to do, and then disappear never to be heard of again.
I received a critique a while back in regards to four minor characters in my novel. “A lot of new characters have been introduced, and they all run together in my mind. I think more time needs to be spent developing these characters as individuals rather than some generic group of friends.”
The lady that provided the critique was right. I didn’t provide any description of these characters. Except for the fact that they had names, you would have had no idea which one I was using in the scene. I didn’t think descriptions were necessary. They served one purpose and one purpose only. They did their job and disappeared.
Well shortly after receiving the critique, I bumped into an article on Minor Characters in the Writers Digest I was reading. Maybe somebody was trying to tell me something.
According to Elizabeth Sims, who wrote the article, if the person is important enough to exist in the world of your story, let your readers picture that existence.
When you introduce minor characters, you should have one or better two details. He was as wide as he was tall, and talked with a lisp.
Even characters who exist in passing should exist in the readers eye. For a literally glancing description, make it visual. The freckle faced boy stuck his tongue out at us, then turned to go inside.
If you have a group-Pan the crowd and then zoom in. Give one or two details describing them all, and then move in to one person as the representative. The demonstrators walked down Main street waving their signs and shouting obscenities. “Where is Mayor Blackman? ” shouted a tall, gray haired man at the front of the line.