There’s a thing I’ve noticed with newer or inexperienced writers. They tend to not to have secondary or even minor characters at all. I didn’t realize how much of an issue this is until I realized in a few fan fictions and novels that I’ve been reading that something was missing. Secondary and minor characters are important to the world itself. They fill the world up with people that the main character will interact with, even if they only appear for a scene or two. It gives the world some meat to the potatoes that is the setting. Without it, the main characters feel like they are the only people in the world and the world completely revolves around them. No one wants to feel like the only thing that the author wants to show off is the main characters.
So, what exactly is a secondary character or a minor character?
A secondary character isn’t quite the main characters, but they have importance within the story itself. Often, they would appear more than once or have some significance to the plot. A good example of a secondary character is often the mentor character that disappears (or dies or something) midway through the plot. They are an important secondary character. They drive the plot forward without being the main characters that you’re always around. They are often reoccurring and sometimes can be upgraded to main characters easily given enough scenes.
A minor character is a character that holds very little significance at all and just shows up as a character for the sake of the scene. These are tricky and very often come up on the fly. Sometimes, they don’t even need to have names. They do, however, need to portray what you want them to in that specific scene without looking wooden or a cutout. You can have fun with these. Some of my favorite minor characters have been eccentric or awesome for a single scene, only to never be seen from again. Some never even get a line of dialogue (like the guards of a Queen or a bartender of a tavern). They are there to give some depth to the scene and remind the readers, hey, this a world with thousands upon thousands of people that you aren’t going to be able to meet.
Then why are they important? Like I said before, secondary and minor characters bring depth to the stories. Main characters have their own drives and ambitions and the center of the plot. The setting gives them somewhere to stay, walk around in, converse around, and do battle in. However, none of that matters if there’s not more than the main characters they can talk to sometimes. Sometimes, you need to have nameless characters for your main characters to fight. You need to have them go somewhere and gather information. Secondary and minor characters can give you that without compromising what you want the main characters to experience. Also, they are easy to make for the most part.
Secondary characters usually have more depth. They take time to mature (however less than the major characters) and they often have names and personalities in every scene they come across. Take your time with these. For minor characters, you can very often just think of a name or personality on the fly that fits your world. Give them a job or a purpose for their minor role within the scene and keep moving. You’ll be amazed by just how much add a few soldiers, a few patrons, or a few random city folks within a scene can change how your readers will see the scene in their heads.
I hope that this helps. Keep making characters and write those stories.
See ya next Thursday,
Deston J. Munden