Expanding A Minor Character

Some characters are so small in the text of your novel that you could blink and miss them. Sometimes, that's all you think they are. You just wanted someone interesting do deliver that "must have" line or minor plot point. But now, you're in the revision stage of your  novel, and you realize this character or this character's work is bigger than is written.  Or, you really like this character more than you like the side kick.

It is OK to upgrade your character to a major character. There are a few important things to keep in mind when expanding  minor characters.


  1. KEEP THE QUIRKS!
  2. Make sure to do a full work up on them, just like you would any other major character in your arsenal. A wisecrack is funny, but the character should have more depth than that.
  3. Make sure they create problems for your Main Character. 
  4. Make sure their conflict doesn't overwhelm the story.
  5. Pantsing it and just littering vague clues is a good approach, as long as you keep all of the notes for the character in one place.
  6. Make sure they create problems for your Villain. 
  7. Enjoy it.

Keep the Quirks

Keep the quirks is perhaps the best piece of writing advice you can ever get. This is what is going to make your characters stand out. The things that make them different from all of the other characters out there. Minor characters are a great place to stretch out the strange factor. The MC has a lot to do, and is under a lot of pressure. Their story, is what the reader should care about. But that frequently makes the MC busy. Sure, you've probably spent weeks fleshing out the MC, worrying here there and everywhere about is the MC interesting, is the MC a Mary Sue, is the MC's inner life full. And one you were done with that, you moved on to your Villain.

You worried, did your Villain have enough motivation, did your Villain have any redeeming qualities, will your reader be able to relate to your Villain. And all of those questions are important, and foundational even, are your Minor Characters just along for the ride?

So there you were in the middle of your eight cup of coffee, when the muse whispered your ear: Make the waiter have a melt down in the middle of serving dinner and THAT'S when the MC figured his date was really the Evil Monster he'd been hunting for the last year. 

Now you're looking at this scene that makes no sense, but you love the way waiter told his boss he could take this job and shove it.  What's a writer to do? Cut the scene? or Make the waiter a bigger character. This might require sprinkling in the waiter a few scenes earlier, so this melt down is more dramatic. Especially if the waiter is kick ass at his job, and never so much as has an eyelash out of place. 

Or maybe you don't like the side characters you wrote. Like I said, you spent all that time on the Big Kahunas and now their friends seem bland by comparison. Give them quirks. Give them conflict, Give them a reason to be there other than they are the friend of XYZ Character. Make them memorable, make them fun. In the process, you will make your story better. 

This week has been all about adding things to the novel. Next week is going to be about cutting your darlings.

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