July 29, 2019

Writing Minor Characters

By Nancy Roe

If you missed my checklist on Writing Major Characters check the archives on Friday to view. 

Writing Minor characters may make a difference in the plot, but readers aren’t supposed to get emotionally involved with them, either negatively or positively. Readers don’t expect them to keep showing up in the story. A rule of thumb is that a minor character does one or two things in a story and then disappears.

Twelve Tips on Minor Characters:
  1. Each minor character must serve a purpose, otherwise cut them. Without purpose, a minor character will only slow down your story.
2.            Minor characters should make an impression when they enter a scene, just not a big splash.
3.            Appearances of minor characters should be brief and infrequent. Although that doesn’t mean they can’t shine whenever they are in the spotlight. Give them a quirk or defining characteristic that makes them easily identifiable.
4.            Use minor characters to propel your plot forward.
5.            Minor characters can help advance the protagonist’s storyline forward, reveal information, and give additional insight about major characters, including back-story.
6.            Minor characters can act as a sounding board, and knowingly or unknowingly assist your protagonist in achieving his or her goal.
7.            Utilize minor characters to further reveal the atmosphere and era of your setting.
8.            Minor characters can bring a different perspective to your story.
9.            Minor characters can prevent or encourage your protagonist from running away from a problem.
10.        Minor characters’ behaviors, attitudes and idiosyncrasies, will help to set the tone of a scene.
11.        Minor characters are unlikely to be used as a viewpoint character.
12.        Minor characters don’t have their own subplots.

How to Test Your Minor Characters:
Imagine that you delete your minor character from your story. Does your story still work? If so, the minor character isn’t necessary.
When Nancy Roe was twelve, she wrote an autobiography for a sixth grade English assignment. In the last chapter, Nancy wrote that she wanted to be an author. When she turned fifty, her dreams came true! And she hasn't stopped writing since.Nancy also blogs at You'll find articles on organizing tips, recipes, craft ideas, computer tips, grammar tips, and unusual holidays. Even her dog, Shadow, writes an article--there has to be humor, and he's a funny guy!  Nancy is a Midwest farm girl at heart and currently lives in Tennessee with her husband and four-legged child. Follow Nancy on her various social media links: Website:

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