We all know that supporting characters can make or break a book. While a book with a moderately ok supporting cast can certainly survive, and even thrive, it’s the books with stunning supporting characters that really stand out.
How does one accomplish this?
Don’t worry! I’ve created a step-by-step guide that is sure to give you FLAWLESS results. I promise.
(Simple, really! You can’t fail!)
Step 1: What Roles are Critical vs Nice-to-haves?
The first decision you have to make is who will be in your supporting cast. Of course, there are some people you have to have, and these folks should be the focus of your attention. It’s also important to keep in mind that sometimes we’re creating characters just for the hell of it, and sometimes those become distracting. You don’t want your readers to focus on a character who doesn’t really go anywhere or do anything. The nice-to-haves can exist, but downplay them.
Step 2: How does each character in your cast contribute to the plot or development?
So you’ve figured out WHO is important. Now it’s time to really solidify what MAKES them important. REMEMBER those roles. And make sure each character fulfills them. Yes, they can do random things that don’t always go in that direction, but MOST of their interactions should help progress the story. Either by contributing to the plot or facilitating character development.
Step 3: Know their backstories.
EVERYONE should have a solid background. You might not need to write it all down or share their entire story, but the better YOU know their background, the more solid your portrayal of each supporting character will be. You want them to be consistent, of course, but most importantly, you want them to feel like REAL people, and not just props to move the story along.
Step 4: Show their motives & aspirations.
Everyone has goals. And everyone makes decisions that will move them towards their goals. The better you understand and can portray your supporting casts goals, the more robust and lively they will feel. And if decisions made by the supporting cast become integral to the plot, make SURE they are understandable decisions.
Step 5: Don’t forget about them.
Sometimes I think this is the hardest! Once a supporting character has fulfilled their critical role, don’t forget about them! They are a PART of the story, so you have to give them some resolution as well. Either touch base with them periodically throughout the rest of the book, or create an emotional attachment between them and the reader and kill them off. Either way, conclude THEIR story just as delicately as you would the main character’s story.
There you have it! You’re all experts now 😉
What tips do you have? Any other considerations we should all keep in mind?