Monday, 16 September 2013

Do you major in minors?

Do I? I certainly try to.
Every minor character is the hero of his/her own story.
I don't know who first said this, but it's true. If I could, I'd stick this quote on the first page of our writerly bible, 'The Rules'™. For me, it's much more important than a few dubiously placed commas, fragmented sentences etc. Often, they're style choices. Leave them be. 
As a reader, I don't care about the little stuff, not if the story is good. However, I DO NOT like finding a stiffy in my book. No. Not that sort! Read on

Imo, there's nothing more off-putting than having to suffer a scene featuring a wooden and 2D minor character. Usually cast in the role of the MC's 'friend', their only function seems to be that of a portable toilet. Whenever the MC is ready to indulge in a spot of info-dumping, right on cue, out comes the MDF 'friend'. You can almost hear the wheels squeaking as they're wheeled out on set. 

Peevus Maximus! Can you tell? :)

For me, MDF (wo)man is worse than the sin of Thou Shalt Not Begin A Sentence With 'As you know, Jeff...' (In fact, a well-placed 'As you know, Jeff' makes me giggle.) But there's nothing funny about being hit over the head with a piece of two by four.

As a writer, I really do try to treat my supporting characters with the same respect I afford to my lead-role people. I like to give them all lives, histories, and goals--even if I don't ever share any of them with the reader. I picture my characters as railway tracks. (Bear with me!) All of them are heading somewhere. Any one of them could have been--and still could be--my 'star player'. Sometimes those tracks intersect and the characters meet one another. I try and allow them to react and speak in ways that reflect their lives.

Whether I'm any good at it remains to be seen. My judgement day is still some time off.

A writer who passed her judgement exams with flying colours is Jane Austen. She totally excelled at creating 3D, walking, talking characters. Not a stiffy in sight! In fact, I love her minor characters almost as much as her Darcy/Wentworth/Brandon. Mr. Collins is a particular favourite of mine. Revolting as he is, he's uniquely, utterly, wonderful.

Who's your favourite secondary character and why?

1 comment:

  1. Oh, perfect post. And the BEST movie Mr. Collins ever! I've seen this actor in other films, but every time I see him I replay that brilliant proposal scene in my mind. Agreed, reading Jane Austen's secondary characters is half the fun.


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