From Writers Helping Writers:
Everybody loves their heroes, some people even love their villains. But it’s a rare author that actively loves and spends equal time on their side characters. Sure, some of them are fun to write, but they’re not who the story is about, which is why so many of them are simply slapped on and ill-thought out. Today, I’m going to help you combat that by giving you three mistakes to avoid when creating your side characters.
Mistake 1 — Weighing Side Characters Incorrectly
Not all side characters are created equal. While some craft teachers talk about archetypes, I prefer to look at side characters in terms of their effect and influence on the story.
Here are the three main types of side characters:
- Cameos are brief and fleeting, usually nameless or with a generic label “guard, receptionist, girl with the teddy”. They leave no mark on the story and are forgettable. Think the woman in the red dress in the Matrix, or Marvel comic writer Stan Lee’s appearances in the Marvel films.
- Minor characters are still fleeting, they still don’t leave much of a mark on the story save for transactional exchanges like a barman or a shop owner. Think Mr. Filch in Harry Potter.
- Major characters are usually scarce, only a handful of them in most stories. They have their own subplots and character arcs, they should represent the book’s theme too. Think Ron and Hermione in Harry Potter.
Too often, writers try to give minor characters character arcs, or they don’t give enough attention to a character that’s supposed to have an arc or subplot. Understanding the different types of side characters should enable you to give the right amount of page time and depth to each character.
Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers