As many writers know, the major characters of a story or novel are very important. Generally, they are the primary focus of the work and they play a central role in the unfolding of the plot. Nevertheless, minor characters are often an integral-and perhaps even inalienable-aspect of one’s written work. In essence, they are just as important as the major characters. Here are two reasons why.
1. Minor Characters Can Reveal Things About The Protagonist’s Character.
This fact becomes evident through the work of many authors, including Flannery O’Connor’s important short story “A Good Man Is Hard To Find.” There, The Misfit-a fugitive who has no qualms about killing innocent people-ends up taking the life of the story’s central figure, the grandmother. Throughout the story, the grandmother was portrayed as a strong-willed and even domineering woman who told all of her loved ones what to think and do. Near the end of the story, however, a minor character-The Misfit-harasses her after the family’s car runs off the road. It is here that the calm collected demeanor of the grandmother gives way to her literally screaming for her life.
When one considers the interaction between The Misfit and the grandmother in the story, the importance of the minor character becomes clear. In essence, it is The Misfit who reveals that the grandmother is a multi-faceted creature capable of demonstrating the sort of vulnerability and desperation that stands in direct opposition to the assertive independence she evinces throughout the text.
2. Minor Characters Make Your Work More Diverse and Interesting.
Even if you create a protagonist who possesses the type of unique attributes that many readers find interesting, it is likely that at least one member of your reading audience will find her or him dull or trite. This is where carefully crafted minor characters can help you. If a reader is not interested in the personality traits of your protagonist, the attitude and activities of a minor character will likely keep them reading. In my short story “Maybe Marrying Margaret” for example, one of the minor characters is the father of the protagonist’s love interest. Unlike the couple, this man is a controlling individual who likes to dictate the course of other people’s lives. In describing him, I state that he treats his daughter like a project. In constructing a minor character this way, I create a contrast between the generally mild-mannered central characters. Thus the story acquires a more plenary representation of humanity and likely interests readers who find easy-going amicable characters uninteresting.
As stated earlier, minor characters are just as integral to textual development as major characters. This is the reason that writers should make sure that minor characters are not hastily flung together products of a haphazard mind. Rather, the writer should construct them with precision and attention to detail. Doing so can likely make one’s story more interesting to the reader. Good luck!
Jocelyn Crawley holds B.A. degrees in English and Religious Studies. Her work has appeared in Jerry Jazz Musician, Nailpolish Stories, Visceral Uterus, Dead Beats, Four and Twenty, and Haggard and Halloo. Other stories are forthcoming in Faces of Feminism, The Idiom, Thrice Fiction and Calliope.
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