Minor characters=minor importance?

May 17, 2005 | Articles | 1 comment

First Hi! I’ve been at the Wisconsin RWA annual conference. I was the chair this year. Yahoo! It is over. It was a great conference, but it is such a relief to have it behind me. Waves to anyone who was there. :)

Today I was reading the new issue of Writer’s Digest and they had a short piece on the importance of even minor characters–how too often writers let the guy who pours the main character a drink be just a cardboard replica filling a line or two.

When I was about 3/4 of the way through with Love is All Around I went to a book signing by Jenifer Crusies (next year’s speaker at the WisRWA conference by the way). She said she gives even the guy pouring a drink a goal, motive and conflict. She doesn’t spell it out and the reader most often doesn’t even know what it is–but she knows it. So when she is writing that scene she has in her mind what that character’s state of mind is and what he did that day. Why is this a brilliant idea?

Because it adds texture. That little something extra that makes the people in your book come to life, and it is fun! I think getting into your characters’ minds is the absolute best part of writing. So, is that bartender going through a divorce? Did his wife toss his vintage copies of Hustler onto a bon fire last night? Or did he just win a mountain bike at his church’s raffle? Maybe he’s got tickets to The Rolling Stones for a concert that starts in twenty minutes.

See how with each different set up, him pouring that drink might be different? How about how your main character reacts to him, and even what he/she does after the interaction?

So, spent any time in your minor characters’ heads today?

1 Comment

  1. Mary Stella

    My secondary characters often jump from the pages and demand story time. That’s why Aunt Ruby from my first book just had to come back for appearances in the second book. In the second book, the heroine’s best friend came alive and demanded her own book, which I’m working on now. In both cases, the secondary characters usually serve as mentors or advisors to the h and h. Or, they also deliver good verbal kicks in the butt when necessary.
    Kudos on Jenny Crusie speaking next year. She’s phenomenal.