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Characters That Aren’t Your Main Character.


What We’re Drinking:

Camarena Tequila. It’s a reposado. I love reposados. This is a very sweet and mild repo. It’s smooth and light, an easy drinking tequila.

What We’re Saying:

What the hell just happened? Why did we spend ten minutes talking about water and horses and Mongolia?

Okay, we’re talking about supporting characters. Characters other than your main good guy and your main bad guy are supporting characters. Supporting characters are really, really important. I started out writing A Guide to a Happier Life with just two characters. I’m not going to lie to you, writing a book with only two characters is really hard, and I’m not that good. So through the development of the book I added in people as I needed them; to provide resistance, to give information, to provide context for the main characters. And these are the ways that writers use supporting cast.

Think of it as the Alfred to your Batman.

These are the mentors, the foils, the contagonists, the skeptics, etcetera.

The reason these characters are so important is that they define the world that your main characters exist in more than any other feature. Through their relationship to the main character they also help define and add depth to your main character. Because those relationships and that context is so important, it’s vital to know who your supporting characters are. It’s genuinely worth spending an hour or two thinking about your supporting characters’ backstories and biases and opinions.

The Lord of the Rings franchise is a great film to take apart and look at the roles that supporting characters play, because there’s a lot of them.

This is pretty common in fantasy books. There’s a notion that in order to have a fantasy story you need to have a party with xyz roles filled, and honestly, I find that some of these roles can be combined in order to make characters more interesting and to streamline the story.

Sometimes a character you think is a supporting character is actually a main character. This has happened to me several times.

Providing sufficient supporting characters also gives you more opportunities to raise the stakes on your main character. They have more relationships that can be at risk, and they can be isolated simply by taking the supporting characters away.

If your supporting cast members are sufficiently interesting and delightful, they have the potential for companion short stories: spin-offs from a larger work and world. Not only are these super fun to write but they can be used as marketing material for your long-form fiction. Also? Writing companion short stories helps you better develop your supporting characters.

Here’s another resource for common character archetypes: Click Me.


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