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Creating Fictional Characters: The Supporting Characters

I contemplated just throwing the remaining types of characters in a post together because I ended up with some really good inspiration while in my World Lit class for something just as informative but less teachy inspired by a comment I got back on my essay. But alas, it’s character week, and I’m going to put my focus on the characters. So let’s talk about supporting characters. What are their roles in the story?

Simply put, their role is to support the main character because a story with only one character makes for a pretty bland story no matter how good the execution of the idea is. But there are two different kinds of supporting characters. There are the lead supports and the lesser supports… or at least that’s what I call them. I have to categorize them somehow.

Lead Supports:

These are the people who your main character tends to be with the most or play a role that’s close in importance to the MC simply because they’re close to the main character. They’re the regular people, the ones who are always closely tied into the main conflict of the story. The question is, how many lead supports to have. Well, the MC always has to have friends and unfortunately writers don’t have the luxury of giving the MC a lot of friends they hang out with often like we might have in real life, because then we risk losing track of the characters and the MC getting lost in the shuffle.

In my novel that I’m still editing, she has three best friends and each of them play a part in their team.

BF1: The voice of reason and sensibility
BF2: Follows the MC, but is also the voice of logic
BF3: The scaredy cat, but quite brave when it comes down to it and usually follows the MC, but not without complaint.

See? All three of her best friends serve a purpose and since they are the BFs of the MC, that means they are always closely tied to whatever’s going on with her. But the best friends were just the easiest examples. The lead supports can be anyone. They can be the teacher, the family, the bully whoever, as long as they’re closely tied into the main plot. Heck, the villain is a supporting character but a whole different type and I’ll get to him tomorrow.

As for how many lead supports you’ll have? Whatever is needed I say. The writer really doesn’t know until they start writing it. They may have an idea, but until the story is written you can’t pick them out. And the thing about lead supports, if you’re doing a series, they don’t always have to be the lead. They can play their role in one book, and not be important in another. It varies and you go through the same process creating them as you did with the MC, except tone them down. They can get on the audience’s nerve a little (Ron Weasley? The little Parrot from Aladdin? Timon and Pumba…? Well they got on my nerve) and their flaws don’t have to be as obvious or as glaring as the main character’s. Be careful not to make them bland, but don’t make them outshine the MC (remember, the MC is akin to the bride in the wedding. No one outshines the bride).

Lesser Supports

I’d like to think I coined these terms, but someone else is probably using the same term on their site. Anyway, the lesser supports are those people who are around, who are connected to the main plot every now and then, but not regularly enough to be as important as the lead supports. For instance, in my novel, there are two woman who make an appearance at least once every book, but just because they’re regular characters, doesn’t make them lead supports, because they only show up in maybe one scene per novel. Of course, just because they’re not lead supports doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a purpose, it’s just not as big a role as the leads. It’s like this, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Professor Trelawney served an important purpose. She made the prophecy of Peter Pettigrew escaping and Voldemort returning. But that didn’t make her a leading supporting character. She was still a lesser supporting character.

Again, you go through the same process with creating them as with the other characters except you don’t have to flesh them out as much. Give them enough personality and flaws to fulfill that one role they play. For instance:

MC’s mother: Well she’s the MC’s mother and as long as she acts like the mother of the MC, we don’t need to know everything about her.
MC’s sisters: They’re her sisters. Enough said.
MC’s absent father: he’s absent. Who cares?
MC’s BF’s grandmother: gives some advice in one scene per story. No need to wonder about her too much there.

Now this doesn’t mean the writer can’t know the history of these characters, but it’s not important to the story, therefore the reader doesn’t need to see all faucets of the personality and such and the fun part about the lesser supports is that the writer can make then a bit two dimensional. They don’t have to be as three dimensional or complex as the other characters and they don’t have to be that likeable. Give them one character trait that stands out and maybe a contrary one. So their personalities and traits can be as simple as firm, but kind; beautiful, but a bad attitude; competitive, but a great sport, fearful, but brave. Again, this doesn’t mean you make them bland. They can have flavor, but they aren’t as out there as the other characters.

There. I think I covered everything and if I didn’t, let me know. Tomorrow we get to deal with villains and that’s going to be a cross between informative and a rant. I can’t wait.

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