As I was test driving the Storybook software I downloaded a while back, trying to decide if it will be as good a writing tool as Scrivener, I suddenly discovered that I have no idea what the difference is between a major and a minor character. They’ve all just been characters, with the exception of the protagonist and antagonist of course. Yet I was being asked by this novel-writing software to decide who were major characters and who were minor characters in my book, Apprentice Cat. A little research later and I had my answer.
Minor characters are usually flat, two-dimensional characters. They are the ones who show up in a scene or two to help move the plot along, but don’t need a complicated back story. However, just because a character has a minor role over-all that does not mean the character can’t be memorable. Darcy Pattison suggests four great ways to help create memorable minor characters without having to round the character out.
- An ailment such as a cold
- An unusual role
- An unusual job
- Distinctive facial features
Major characters are well-rounded. They are the protagonist, antagonist and any other character that needs an in-depth back story in order to fulfill their role in the plot. Of course, rounding out a major character means giving your reader some back story and that can be tricky. Ronni Loren has some tips on how to “dish out back story in digestible bites” like using
- minimal flashbacks or memories
- character thoughts
- action in the story
Knowing how to create memorable minor characters while slowly rounding out major characters can be hard work, but it’s a task worth tackling for a great story on The Road to Writing.