Making minor characters shine!

Yesterday, Beth talked about the small details that end up making a fictional - particularly science fiction - setting real. I heartily concur with her assessment. Small details make it easier to suspend disbelief.

In that vein - minor characters who are fully fleshed out serve to make your story richer, to enhance your main character's interactions, and give a feel of reality to your writing. I'm not talking secondary characters, or side-kicks - but those characters who make brief, yet memorable, appearances.

If you can embue your minor characters with backstory, reasons for action (or non-action), and interesting quirks - it's like filling your book's canvas with a veritable rainbow of color.

A few examples of minor characters from a variety of novels, movies & TV:

C3PO from Star Wars - he's prissy & fussy & incredibly loyal (okay - he's more than minor, but he's great!)
Scotty from Star Trek - he's no-nonsense, a bit stubborn, & an excellent engineer
Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter - can I just say how much I love Luna? She's a fabulous, quirky, & endearing girl
Mary Crawford from Mansfield Park - a woman far more interesting than even the novel's heroine.

Lots of fan fiction is written putting minor characters into starring roles.

What minor characters do you find well-written and would you like to know more about?


Perry Wilson said...

I always try to thin of my minor characters as potential protagonist/antagonists for future novels. I've found that when I don't do a good job of making the minor characters real, they tend to make themselves more important in the story.

Sylvia Ney said...

Headed over from Elana's blog. I'd like to read more about a lot of secondary characters. This is probably why so many romance authors have spin offs from their books. ;-)

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Mad-Eye Moody should have his own novel! :)

Julia said...

Perry - what an interesting way to envision minor characters - as potential major characters. I like it!

Sylvia - thanks for stopping by! I didn't realize that about romance authors! (makes note to expand reading list)

Amanda - Totally! Love Mad-Eye!

Alex Mullarky said...

I LOVE when minor characters are actually significant in their own right. It just feels like the author actually cares - rather than treating them as a device.

Julia said...

Agreed, A.J.! Most definitely!

Alex said...

I utterly agree with Luna. She is probably my favourite character in the books- and I love the actress in the films. I think she does such a good job.

In David Eddings' Belgariad (you probably won't have read them, no one seems to have done so) I loved Beldin because he was so disgusting and easy to dislik, but then he had this wonderful back story. He actually ended up being promoted from minor character to secondary character, he was that good. So, maybe he doesn't count.

But maybe that's what makes a good minor character, one which starts out unimportant, but an author can't help coming back to them eventually because they are just that interesting.

Another Harry Potter one (sorry) I liked was Nymphadora Tonks. She was hilarious and quirky and wonderful. Oh, and Jack Starbright in the Alex Rider Series.