All budding actors are told there is no such thing as a minor character. Every individual in a play is important. A difficult concept for a young actress to accept while waiting in the dressing room for an hour or more for a chance to say the three words she’s been practicing over and over again. There are many ways to say, “Good Morning, Sir” or “Your tea, Madam.”
Since I began placing words on paper and keyboard, I’ve found that each character—no matter how brief his or her entrance upon the stage—adds to the story, and sometimes manages to manipulate a twist or turn in the plot I’ve researched and planned—often surprising me in the process and expecting me to deal with their unexpected revisions. Something is set in motion that needs a reaction from my leading character. A chance remark, sighting or gesture may change a line or a chapter and sometimes will turn a minor character into a major player.
Leading characters need to be more fully realized so that the writer and later the reader can understand the character’s action. The reader needs to recognize and identify with background, period, and the happenings in a life that motivates and distinguishes the individual’s behavior. The secondary characters should add seasoning to the story, a touch of spice that adds humor, fear or another layer of mystery. We and the reader have to find something about our secondary characters that adds to the authenticity of each individual and his and her moments on the page.
My intended villain in Scene Stealer decided to charm me and I had to choose another character to carry out every reprehensible deed.
Often a minor character threatens to take over the book and that’s when the author has to decide if the character is right or whether that character should be told to stand back and wait for a future book of his or her own.
What unexpected adventures have your minor characters involved you in?