When writing a book, it is easy to focus on the protagonist. After all, he/she is the person the audience should know, and hopefully relate to, the best. But what about the other characters? How prevalent, knowable, and relatable should they be?
For my novel “The Four Crystals,” I divided my book’s cast into four groups: protagonist, antagonist, supporting character, and minor character.
My Group Definitions:
- protagonist: main character or the character whose viewpoint I am using to tell the story
- antagonist: villain
- supporting character: a character whose removal from the book would alter the storyline and/or the plot’s outcome
- minor character: a character whose removal from the book would not alter the storyline and/or the plot’s outcome because another character could fulfill that function in the story
Since my background is in theater, I subdivided my minor characters into two groups:
- extras: human background/scenery
- featured extras: they stand out from the rest of the extras by having one or more lines, being named, and/or appearing more than once
I believe it is important to develop a supporting character as much as I do my protagonist. My featured extras (messenger, loudmouth in a crowd, etc.) should be recognizable, but if they do not need a backstory to complete their task, they don’t get one. My extras (villagers, soldiers, etc.) are scenery; they’re lucky if they get noticed by the protagonist.
The following articles offer advice on how to create memorable supporting characters. I hope they help you to create a memorable supporting cast!
“How to Write Effective Supporting Characters” by Hallie Ephron – She uses the mystery genre to explain how each supporting character needs to have a defined role or purpose in the protagonist’s life as well as a distinct personality. The article also touches on the difference between supporting and minor characters.
“10 Secrets to Creating Unforgettable Supporting Characters” by Charlie Jane Anders – He gives some tips that apply to developing supporting characters, some that are geared towards designing minor characters, and some that work for creating both supporting and minor characters.