Great characters are essential to a story: the more we can relate to them, empathize with them, and cheer them on, the more we connect with the story overall. But it’s not just the major players that make a story a success. Minor characters are important too, and not just as filler for the pages.
I can think of several minor characters that I just absolutely loved reading about. There was Gurgie, the lovable, furry rascal from the Chronicles of Prydain. In the Percy Jackson series we meet Tyson, Percy’s half-brother, who happens to be a very sweet, very young Cyclops. From other books by Rick Riordan we meet Khufu, a baboon who loves basketball, and Ella, a harpy with a photographic memory. Dobby from the world of Harry Potter is now perhaps the most famous house-elf the world over. And of course there is Iko, the would-be human android from the Lunar Chronicles (who also is mentioned in my blog post on Wires and Nerve).
Minor characters serve multiple functions. Not only do they give the main characters someone to interact with and therefore demonstrate their shortcomings and/ or growth, but they can give you someone to cheer for when the main character isn’t behaving as we wish they would. Side characters often have a child-like personality (whether from age, size, race or background) and because of this they can bring a unique perspective to the story – along with a lot of laughs.
But I think what I like best about minor characters is that they remind me of how God often uses the weak, the broken, or the unimportant to do His work. I see this especially in the self-sacrifices of Dobby and Gurgie, and again in Iko’s insistence that she not get a new android body just because hers was damaged in the war, since “none of her friends’ bodies were disposable, so why should hers be?” (from Winter, volume 4 of the Lunar Chronicles). They remind us that life is precious and sacred, and that being human is a blessing, not a curse. Just as the sidekicks give the major characters the opportunity to be heroes, so does God’s strength shine brightest through His weak and fragile children. :-)
I admit, writing “weak” characters is not one of my strengths. I haven’t created many minor characters thus far – certainly not any with great literary appeal (unless you count Artie…?) And I really should, after all I’ve said touting their possibilities! So I guess I need to work that ;-).
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
Until the next time, keep reading!
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I have two passions: reading and writing. You can't write good stories without first reading good stories - that's my theory, anyway. So this is where I'll share with you the depth of those passions: background on what and why I write, as well as talking about the books that I read and how they impact my writing.