It’s easy to become fully engaged with heroes or even villains. For the most part, they are larger than life. They contrast good and evil in wonderful threads throughout a story. And when a good guy does something bad or a bad guy has a touching, “soft” moment, there is the slightest blur that makes those characters absolutely fabulous.
Imagine if Harry Potter didn’t have this “I’ll do it all on my own” kind of weakness. If he followed all the rules and said only nice things to everyone, we may never have seen the wonderful success of the Harry Potter series of books.
Imagine if there were no inner-struggle that led Hannibal Lecter to help Clarice in Silence of the Lambs?Where good and evil meet makes for both conflict and the occasional blurring of lines that grip us as readers and move stories to a level of believability that ensure those tales last. Where good and evil meet, is also a wonderful place to find minor characters who steal my heart away.
Characters like Liesl in The Sound Of Music, or Queen Elizabeth in The King’s Speech. These “minor” characters add depth, new perspectives, and sometimes comic relief that sparkle a story the way sunlight sparkles on a lake’s surface to draw us in closer.
Interestingly, we often don’t have time in a work of fiction to add much detail about a minor character. They walk into a scene, do their job and leave. Painted with a wide brush, these characters are little more than sketches for us to fill in with our own imaginations.
Look at Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol. He is so very sweet, innocent, and needy that our hearts go out to him. If he became the center of the story, however, I don’t think any of us could stand him. He would need to develop a habit of tripping the other children with his crutch or putting on imaginary illnesses to manipulate his parents into an amusing game of fetch if he were to be able to “carry” a story.
In my writing, I find these characters are often the most fun to play with. They are simple flights of fancy that come up from my subconscious to say hello, but stick in my imagination for months after.
Milo “Grins” Grinnel is just such a character. I love him. He is a gangly fellow with bad breath, protruding teeth, and not much of a way with women. He was nothing more than an alternate reason for Daisy to be invited to her critique group leader’s house for dinner in Faith On The Rocks.
But as I was writing, Milo just kept me giggling all through the scene, and I still find myself wanting to write his full story. I want him to somehow “win” the girl or whatever it is he’s looking for in life and live happily ever after. Instead, he is a blind date who is so terribly not right for Daisy.
And then there is the horrible Mary, receptionist for a family counseling center. I needed a way to block Daisy from finding someone, and what better way to accomplish this, than with a nerves-of-steel and heart-of-stone “good guy” gatekeeper? Oh, I was so ready to smack that woman! Yet, the stirring of these emotions as I wrote, helped make these people “real” to me.
If you get a chance to read my novel when it comes out next June, I hope you’ll enjoy these minor characters as much as I do.
Until then, look around. There are “minor” characters in your life everywhere. Store clerks, telephone support people, a friend of a friend. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Have a wonderfully peopled day!