The Subtle Art of Writing Supporting Characters

If protagonists and antagonists are the heart and soul of your book, then supporting characters are its lifeblood. They keep things flowing. They energize your manuscript, give it life and meaning. Without them you’d have nothing more than a couple of organs going at each other, a knockdown drag out fight with no audience and no significance.

I Feel Like I’m in the Story!

Readers inevitably (and perhaps unconsciously) select a supporting character to act as their eyes and ears to the goings on of the story. In the Sherlock Holmes tales, we are Watson, and Watson is us. His responses to Sherlock are our responses.

In scary movies, the minor characters (victims) represent us by their terrified reactions to the killers.

Okay, that’s enough metaphor. The point is that supporting characters provide your readers with a window into the story, and then a lifeline to the meat and potatoes of your tale.

Whenever a minor character watches your MC with wary eyes, or becomes furious with something your MC says or does, this lends credibility to your novel and helps the reader engage with the story. A reader will see your supporting characters’ response to the MC or villain, and commiserate.

Congratulations, you have just brought your reader into the book by manipulating their heartstrings. Occasionally give those buggers a little twang. But don’t make the fatal mistake of constantly manipulating your audience. Readers are intelligent people; they know when an author is pulling the strings a little too much. Continue reading “The Subtle Art of Writing Supporting Characters”