Minor characters in a story can provide opportunities to develop plot and add depth to main characters. Richness, intrigue and interest can be woven into the story by letting the minor characters provide foreshadowing, backstory, and show different aspects of the setting and main players. Having interesting, well developed and believable minor characters makes for a better novel overall.
Whenever possible — when I need a minor character for a “function” – a teacher, an employer, a store clerk etc., looking to see how a relationship/friendship that relates to one or more of my main characters just might enrich the plot. Instead of having “throw away” or cardboard characters, or combining two or three minor characters into one with more depth makes a more relatable story.
Of course there will always be a cast of unrelated “bit part” characters who show up once and disappear, but if possible, even those should be as developed as much as possible.
In my “practice novel,” a rescue team is introduced around the midpoint. They haven’t existed in the early chapters, but will have a major role in the second half. I had two minor characters fulfilling minor functions early on, and I have consolidated them into one character. This new minor character, who has been a teacher of the protagonist, becomes a contact point between the protagonist and the rescue team leader. He is the leader’s brother. The brother’s expanded role makes parts of the story more plausible, and more interesting.
This expanded role allowed me to add more depth to the team leader, as well as the protagonist. It increased the level of intrigue, and I will use him again farther into the story.
Writing a story is like weaving a tapestry. By interweaving the colors/characters, it starts to build a beautiful picture, and develops more depth while using a smaller cast.
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