Minor Character Necessity

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Sam,

There’s an interesting curiosity I’ve found in many of the stories I’ve been exposed to. A lot of the time people’s favorite characters are not the ones the story is centered around. They are, it is seen, in fact the minor characters. The supporting cast of goods or bads in a story might, at the start, seem like just accessories to the development of the main character’s (MC) story arch. However, if the author knows how to write well and use all the resources available, they will find a rich tap of intrigue in minor characters as they develop the story.

Remus Lupin, Sirus Black, Legolas, Yoda, and even the Minions are all minor characters that we fall in love with. Each of them brings their own unique voice and personality to the story they are part of. Due to their individuality, they allow the main character to react off them, forcing him/her to look at their problem in a different way or otherwise help them in their quest. What is more, minor characters (when given enough attention) give their audience a broader spectrum of characters to want to read about other than the MC. When I discuss about stories such as Harry Potter, people usually don’t have Harry as their favorite character; more often it’s Lupin, Sirius, Snape, or even Draco Malfoy. Having such players provided by the author will prevent the reader from being limited to what character they want to read about. Yes, we all want the MC to accomplish their goals that’s the point of the story, but without the minor characters there to help them along the way, there’s not much of a three-dimensional story.

“Minor character” I define as any character the author did not intend to focus the story around. There may be characters that have almost as much page time as the MC (like Hermione and Ron), but the story is still centered around Harry. Minor character, therefore, can encompass everyone from the schmos in the background that just fill up space to the MC’s best-friend. Anybody who is there to give clues or guidance to the conflicted MC are minor. Essentially, the story could survive without them because the main conflict would still be intact, but that isn’t to say it would be a very interesting read. (Where would Harry be if Hermione didn’t know how to get past Fluffy? Unable to capture the Stone.) Now in stories like A Song of Ice and Fire, there are several MCs because the author provides opportunities to view the story from multiple points of view. So, in this case, the scope of MCs is broadened even more. Each character will encounter different people (sometimes with connections to other story lines) and have the chance to learn and interact with them.

When I started paying more attention to this in the most recent draft of Project Stripes, I found myself writing with more enthusiasm. Not only was I learning more about the story as a whole, I was more entertained by it after I brought more life to the minor characters, even though the story wasn’t about them. I did not care just about the main character anymore; I started caring about the minors well, their motivations, their reasons for how they acted towards the main character. Before, I wrote these characters in as mere tools for the MC to get from point A to B. But that was a severe mistreatment of raw opportunity. The minor characters are just as valuable in the eyes of the writer as the MC. Really, I found more reasons to want to finish this re-imagining of the story thanks to the minor characters bloating the story its actual potential to engage.

So the next time I have the chance to flesh out more characters than just the one the axis of the story balances on, I will take advantage of it. If I give as much attention to the minor characters, I will find more moments of making those characters come alive, which will only encourage me to develop the story to its greatest height.

Cheers.

Hibike-Euphonium-characters

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