Most people watch the guitarist or the singer at a live gig.
The drummer, and often the bassist, get a lot less love. They’re a lot like the minor characters in your stories. They’re important to the plot, but not the stars of the show.
Instalment 3 of the serial included dates 7 to 11, and I’ve chosen Date 11 – Watch a Busker Perform.
Pay attention to someone who isn’t centre stage.
For the date, Claire Wingfield suggests you go to see some kind of performance. Keep an eye on the people who aren’t centre stage. Observe what they’re doing.
People do all kinds of things when they think no one is watching. So keep an eye on the person you’ve chosen. What are they wearing? What are they doing? Is their facial expression captivating?
Why are they not the centre of attention?
Who are your minor characters?
Wingfield then advises writers to choose a minor character in their current writing project. Write a detailed physical description of them. Make it emotional though. Don’t just write “6′ 2″, well-built, dark hair with a scar across the left cheek”. You need the character to come to life. It’s not a police sketch.
But don’t stop there. Extend the description to their home. Who and what would you find there? Are they a clean freak? Is their home stuffed with books? Do plant pots cover every available surface? Do they live in a hovel, or a palatial mansion?
You could even write about their place of work, or their favourite place to relax and hang out. Do all three, if you’re up to the challenge.
Once you have this minor character fixed firmly in mind, consider how you might extend their role within your story. Brainstorm these possibilities if that’s easier. Write and rewrite your story until the character’s significance is amplified.
But Icy! Why should I boost my minor characters?
Glad you asked. While Wingfield recommends that you amplify the significance of minor characters in your story, that’s not always going to be helpful.
Minor characters are often minor for a reason.
If you boost too many characters, you run the risk of readers not knowing who to root for. Or your narrative can get bogged down under the weight of a hundred backstories.
I do think it can be valuable to apply this to one of your characters. In The Necromancer’s Rogue, I have a secondary character who accompanies the villain. He allows me to show the reader what the villain is up to, but for a while, that was all he did.
Then in a later chapter, he returns home for a short pit stop. Having to describe his home, his garden, and how his neighbours responded to him really gave me a good insight into his character.
I’ve been able to return to earlier chapters and incorporate those insights. He went from being a piece of set dressing with dialogue to an actual character. Well worth the effort!
You can also try freewriting based on the performance you watched earlier. What could you see and hear? Or smell? Was there any food on offer?
Remember to impose a creative rule on yourself and only focus on the minor players. Ignore the main performers entirely. Immerse yourself in the scene and freewrite it. Keep it in a notebook for future use.
Over to you! Who is your favourite minor character in your current writing project?
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