Hi, folks, I'm a novelist and like to spend January chatting about novel crafting. Novels are huge undertakings and take some serious work. This series is about practical advice for those with a complete novel draft. Once you have a substantial draft, you must fine-tune your novel. During this stage of novel crafting, you must leverage each element of your novel. How is this done? I will spend this month offering tips and suggestions to add texture and depth to your novel. This week I'll focus on side characters.
Solid drafts have powerful main characters that are fully realized. They have interesting and complex plots. The settings are also rich and detailed. Even with all this in place, your book is not complete. This is the time to add dimension to your story. One way to do this to pay close attention side characters. It's important to make sure that each one of your characters is uniquely distinct from all other characters in your story. There is nothing more annoying than a story with one-dimensional side characters. Stereotypical side characters will also weaken your story. You must take time to bring these side characters to life.
Look at them closely. Are they always making obvious choices? Consider letting them make unusual choices that clash with the choices of the main characters of your story. What can your side characters do to surprise your reader? Allow side characters to steal scenes. I learned a lot about side characters from Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. This classic comic strip is packed scene stealers.
Main character Charlie Brown's friend Linus clings to his security blanket but speaks eloquently about matters of faith. His sister, Lucy, is the bully of the story, but is also the manager of the psychiatric booth, offering five cent advice. On top of that, she's an awful baseball player. These side characters shine.
Allow your side characters to grow. A side character can become quite significant. Think about Snoopy, Charlie Brown's pet dog, who began as a conventional dog but acquired alternative personas -- the Red Baron and Joe Cool. Snoopy is a struggling writer and is an excellent baseball player (note the contrast with Lucy-- defintely look for those opportunities.) . All the Peanuts characters have a unique slant. Are you using your side characters to add color and depth to your masterpiece?
Look at stories that have an ensemble approach for the best examples of side characters. Not every story needs an ensemble approach but every story will benefit from more complex side-characters. Come back next week for more advice to fine-tune your novel.
Here is a doodle: "Rainbow".
A quote for your pocket!
A book is never a masterpiece: it becomes one. Genius is the talent of a dead man. Carl Sandberg