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Creating Fictional Characters: The Cameo Character

I don’t even know why I’m talking about creating these guys, because they’re usually pretty straight forward, but I’ll surprise myself by how much I end up writing by the end of this like I did on my other posts.

Anyway, the cameo characters are characters that don’t play very big roles in the story. They’re the people who show up in a scene or two and the reader never sees again. If you’re not clear, let me explain it like this. Let’s say we take Pokemon (because who hasn’t seen at least a little Pokemon and if you haven’t you’ll get the idea). There are always three characters that occur every episode, your regular supporting characters who appear in most episodes and then all the other characters who appear in one particular storyline of one particular episode and are never heard from again (they might get a second appearance but you get the point). These are cameo characters. They’re usually important to the plot in a minor way, like the little boy who nearly got run over in YuYu Hakusho (I know. I read too much manga) or even the doctor in the office that notices the teenage MC, who’s a hero that fights bad guys, has too many bruises and cuts on her and wonders if he/she being abused. These characters usually don’t mean much to the plot, but it’s just like in the real world. We meet people every day who aren’t important to our everyday lives, and it’s the same in writing. However, it doesn’t mean they don’t have to serve purpose or propel the conflict in some way. Sometimes it’s the cameo characters that can get things done that the other characters can’t. Sometimes the cameo characters notice the simplest things that may be out of the ordinary that the more important characters overlook.

How is that so? Well, because usually the MC and the supporting characters are the ones who have a million different things going off, and they’re expecting something really big to down, something obvious. It’s so much so that it takes a normal person making a simple, casual observation about something that seems to be little, shrugging it off, and then causing the more important characters to have a realization (and usually run off to investigate it leaving your cameo baffled). Tomoyo did it all the time in Cardcaptor Sakura. She wasn’t a cameo character, but she lacked magic and sometimes she was aware of things that didn’t seem magical before any of the magic users were because they were too focused on other things. In Harry Potter, Harry didn’t realize he was being slandered because he was looking for something big about Voldemort to have happened on the front page of the newspaper (again it wasn’t a cameo character but you get the point). Ugh, there are plenty of examples, and the examples are escaping me right now, but my point is though they may only appear once or twice and are never seen again they can play important roles.

So even your cameo characters have to have a purpose. In writing, no one can be just there to take up space and the best part about these characters are that besides saying the old man/woman, little girl/boy, cashier, chef, cook, etc… they don’t need much personality because they only have one function, and it’s usually to make the other character take a second look at something they overlooked or slow them down or something of the sort. They’re just there for the moment, serve they’re function and the writer doesn’t have to worry about them every again. See?

Wow… I really did surprise myself and learn something from this. Who knew the cameo character was more than just a person to fill up the fictional world?

P.S. If any of you can think up better examples, please kindly let me know.

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