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”

Inspiring News for Self-Publishing Authors

If you’re anything like me, you require almost daily doses of inspiration to keep you pounding out those stories and working at your writing career. And sometimes, you need a big hit of the good stuff.

This is where ‘success stories’ of self-publishing writers come in. Reading about legends in our field, like Michael J. Sullivan, can inject a big heaping boost of inspiration right into the meat of your writers muscle.

Did you know—his book series The Riyria Revelations was originally self-published? Yeah, he sold around 90,000 copies of the six books on his own before Orbit published them in 2011 and 2012 as three 2-book omnibuses. (I’ve read the first 2: thoroughly enjoyable!)

I don’t know about you, but I love reading snippets like that. One of us self-published small timers getting noticed by a traditional publisher is always encouraging.

And Michael J. Sullivan is also a genuinely nice guy, giving the indie publishing world a better name through his quality work, professionalism, and guidance through his site.

For example, he makes some great (though not easy to swallow) points to first time writers in his post here, where he answers the question about how a first time writer should go about getting his first manuscript published. (It’s not an easy answer, but as we have all learned the hard way, it is a true response.) Continue reading “Inspiring News for Self-Publishing Authors”

The No. 1 Tip for Writing Unforgettable Supporting Characters

In this guide we are going to discover the quick and simple secret to making the supporting characters in your novels really POP. It’s vital that you learn to make your ‘guest’ cast interesting. They may be secondary to your protagonist and antagonist, but they are still a key to crafting dynamite books.

The Walk-On Waiter is a Person Too

There’s no reason to treat a walk-on as a second class character. As novelists (as in real life, unfortunately), we often skim over certain individuals. We have a scene—or SCENE—in mind that will illuminate or ennoble our MC, and so we tend to brush off any other characters that happen to be in that scene. AN EXAMPLE:

In your scene you are conveying vital information from—let’s say the wife—to her estranged husband. They are sitting in a fancy restaurant, pouring their hearts out, a cornucopia of emotion all over the fine linen tablecloth, and the waiter show up to offer the wine list. You have your MC brush him off with a wave. We don’t meet the waiter, or even see what he looks like. You do this to show the intense focus of you MC, to display the blatantly obvious fact that he is too absorbed with the MAIN STORY to be pestered by some trivial non-character like the waiter.

(Why then did you bother including the waiter? To remind us that the wife and estranged husband are not alone? You might’ve been better off having them cast furtive glances around, paranoid that someone is listening in. That at least would’ve added something to the scene: a sense of dramatic tension.)

This practice of overlooking minor characters is not conducive to the creation of a fully fleshed out world within your manuscript. You can do so much better. Here’s how: Continue reading “The No. 1 Tip for Writing Unforgettable Supporting Characters”