Don’t Forget Those Minor Characters(Revisited)

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I received this 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.”

I didn’t provide much description of the characters, because they were only in one full chapter and part of another. I didn’t think descriptions were necessary. They served one purpose and one purpose only. They did their job and disappeared.

Not long after that I was looking at Writers Digest and bumped into an article on Minor Characters. Maybe somebody was trying to tell me something.

According to Elizabeth Sims, 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 the Mayor, ” shouted a tall gray haired man at the front of the line.

So there you have it. I guess I need to go back and give my minor characters some life 🙂

-Jan R

Don’t Forget Those Minor Characters(Revisited)

Don’t Forget Your Minor Characters!

quote-respect-your-characters-even-the-minor-ones-in-art-as-in-life-everyone-is-the-hero-of-sarah-waters-43-27-03I’m in the revision process with my novel and one of the areas I am focusing on is character development. When you hear character development, you usually think of main characters or supporting characters. Well my main characters do need some work, but for this particular blog I was talking about 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.

So there you have it. One of the things I will be looking at during my revision is those minor characters.  I guess I need to go back and give them some life 🙂

-Jan R

Don’t Forget Your Minor Characters!

Creating Memorable Characters

imagesIt’s hard to overstate the importance of strong characters in a narrative. Think of all of the characters from fiction that you never forgot (Scarlett O’Hara-Gone With the Wind, Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, King Arthur, Dorothy-Wizard of Oz).

Our goal is to have our characters stay with the reader for days after they finish reading. Characters who readers think about as though they are real people, as though they know them…or wish they did.

Know your characters before you introduce them in your story.  J K Rowling spent 5 years doing complete biographies on all of the characters in her Harry Potter series before she even started writing the novels. It’s that important.

  • What does your character look like?
  • What are your characters thoughts?
  • What actions and deeds are typical of your character?
  • How does your character talk?
  • What is your character’s name?

Love your characters, but don’t be afraid to let one go if he or she isn’t working for you. When you lovingly create a character, warts and all, it shows. Take your time and be thorough. Chances are if you fall in love with your character, the reader will too.

Make every character unique. This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but it’s important that even minor characters have something that distinguishes them from everyone else in the story-something to make them more than a name on a page. This distinguishing trait or tag could be anything, and as insignificant as chewing a toothpick, or always saying, “exactly!” Perhaps the character has flaming red hair or grins like a Cheshire cat.

The minor characters only need one distinguishing trait/tag but your main characters need to be more complex. The main character should have 4-5 distinguishing traits and at least one on the negative side. You need a negative trait so your character seems believable rather than someone out of a child’s fairytale. The negative trait doesn’t need to be a serious flaw, just something that makes the character seem like a real person that people can relate to.

Writing a novel can take a long time and it is important to be able to quickly remind yourself what traits a particular character has without having to thumb through pages and pages of work. Creating character profiles can save you huge amounts of time, prevent you from creating inconsistencies, and really help you build upon their individual journeys. I  had to thumb through pages and pages of my manuscript during my first draft and then I got smart and started cheat sheets for each character.

QuintessentialEditor recently posted a blog on Character Arcs. The post offers great insight on building your characters, and showing their growth as they journey through the world you’ve created for them.  Check him out for more information on character development.

I would love to hear any comments you may have or suggestions on how you handle character development. I would also like to request that you consider following my blog. I post on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You will receive an email informing you whenever a new blog posts.

-Jan R

Creating Memorable Characters

Make your Minor Characters Memorable

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I received this critique the past week 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.”

I didn’t provide much description of the characters, because they were only in one full chapter and part of another. I didn’t think descriptions were necessary. They served one purpose and one purpose only. They did their job and disappeared.

Well today I was reading my newest edition of  Writers Digest, and bumped into an article on Minor Characters. Maybe somebody is trying to tell me something.

According to Elizabeth Sims, 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 the Mayor, ” shouted a tall gray haired man at the front of the line.

So there you have it. I guess I need to go back and give my Minor Characters some life 🙂

-Jan R

 

Make your Minor Characters Memorable