Posted by: nancycurteman | September 10, 2018

How to Write Interesting Minor Characters

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Minor characters have three important jobs. They advance the plot, reveal information about the major characters and serve as background or scenery for the story. If a minor character does not do at least one of these jobs, eliminate him or her.

Here are some ways to ensure minor characters enhance a story:

  • Show minor characters as independent people with personalities, motivations and desires of their own. For example, a woman racing past a protagonist wants to get to a bus before it leaves. Or an old man whiling away his day on a park bench smiles as a gaggle of baby geese passes by.
  • Give minor characters a few quirky details. Make them eccentric or obsessive. Consider a limp or hippie clothing or purple hair.
  • Provide them with a bit of action or dialogue that says something about your character or advances the plot. They might look down their nose at your protagonist or try to steal something from her or say something funny, sarcastic or rude.
  • Minor characters are really part of the setting that says something about your protagonist’s situation. If a protagonist is dressed in shorts and a passerby puts up her umbrella and hurries to shelter, there is no need to explain the protagonist’s problem.
  • Choose short, succinct details about your minor characters that describe the scene setting, e.g. a couple of bedraggled men leaning against a store front holding beer bottles, or a woman wearing a diamond necklace to her daughter’s back-to-school night.
  • Provide a little backstory. His wife died ten years ago and he hasn’t been fully sober ever since.
  • Have a minor character interact with your protagonist. He could give your protagonist advice—good or bad; spill something on him; ask for a handout.

Giving your readers a few interesting characters can add a quick note of humor, sadness or fear. Follow these tips and you’ll create minor characters worthy of a readers’ attention.

More tips:

How to Create Minor Characters in Your Mystery Novel


  1. Chris, What’s happening with your site?


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