WriteWorld: How to Write Effective Supporting Characters
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave Sherlock Holmes a full panoply of supporting characters. There was Dr. Watson, the quintessential “sidekick,” to act as a sounding board; Scottish landlady Mrs. Hudson, to cook and clean and fuss over Holmes; Scotland Yard Inspector LeStrade,…
I ran into a similar problem with a character and so I decided to write a sequel that was about him and one of the main characters from the first book and I am loving it. He's just such a fun character to write for.
Hi, I seem to have run into a small problem... I have a secondary character who I've grown to really like, and now I feel like there's not a big enough role for him in my story. I'm considering rearranging the whole thing and making him a more major character, but I'm not sure if I should really start over, or if I should just press on through. I'd be grateful for any advice; thank you!
Ah, the great “kill your darlings” dilemma—my least favorite writerly problem. William Faulkner famously said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings”. What he meant is that even though sometimes there are things that you really want to put into your writing—characters, scenes, bits of advice, quotes, whatever really—if they don’t fit the story, you have to get rid of them, no matter how mch you love them.
You could, of course, go back and rewrite your secondary character to be more important. But would taht make the story better, or just satisfy your desire to keep him?
Secondary characters can also be really important. Maybe keep him in the background as he is, but really work on him so that he packs a punch.
Basically, what it all comes down to is this: Don’t think of the character in terms of how much you like him. Think of him in terms of what he contributes to your narrative.