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Posts Tagged ‘protagonist’

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.

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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.

  1. An ailment such as a cold
  2. An unusual role
  3. An unusual job
  4. 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

  1. dialogue
  2. minimal flashbacks or memories
  3. character thoughts
  4. 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.

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As I continue working on Apprentice Cat, I’ve begun noticing something interesting.  In each scene there are the characters that are talking, acting, thinking or just hanging around, but they are there.  I point them out as being there.  Then there are characters who are there, but not there.  These are what I’ve come to call “silent characters.”

Silent characters are those that are there in every scene, making the protagonist choose one pathway over another simply because he or she knows that is what the silent character would want them to do.  Sometimes a character chooses to not do something because the silent character would want that character to do it.  Regardless, the outcome is based on the silent character’s influence even though that character is not physically in the scene.

In Apprentice Cat the main character, Toby, is faced with decision after decision.  (What character isn’t in a good story?) What he chooses to do or not do are often heavily influenced by what his parents, more specifically his mother, would want him to choose.  After the initial chapters in which Toby’s mother is introduced, she is seldom physically in the important scenes that move the story along.  However, she continues to silently shape Toby’s decisions, making her a very important character.

While your working on your next story, you may want to look a little closer.  Perhaps you’ll find what I did, a silent character aiding you in molding a scene into what it will become on The Road to Writing.

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