Making minor characters interesting

It is so easy to overlook the minor characters in your fiction. But you miss a great opportunity to make your work more interesting if you just use them as placeholders. Compare the following two excerpts to see what I mean:

  1. After a minute, the door opened and Mrs. Celia Stephenson stood there. “Good morning, Miss Violet,” she said. “Your mother is not up yet. Would you like to wait, while I knock on her door?”
  2. Mrs. Celia Stephenson, Mother’s landlady, opened the door a chink, revealing one well-shaped blue eye surrounded by mascara. “Your mother isn’t up yet,” she remarked, swinging the door open while her lips curved into a smile. “Would you like me to knock?”

Which seems more vivid to you?

Here is another example. One of my minor characters is a priest. Originally, I had decided to make him homely, prayerful and totally supportive of his brother, the major character. Then I went looking for images for my main characters, faces that I could pin their names onto. (I went online and searched Google images). I had a brainwave. Suppose I made the priest even more handsome than his dishy brother (the love interest in the novel), suppose I gave him a faint scar that ran down his cheek, and suppose I gave him a faint connection to the Chicago Outfit (the precursor to the mob).

What do you think? Which version of the priest would you rather read about? What do you think of the image of Raoul Bova, the Italian actor? Too handsome for a priest??

Do you have any craft tips you’d like to share? If so, drop a message in the comment box.

Have a wonderful week!

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2 Responses to Making minor characters interesting

  1. A bit late with a comment but have only just discovered this post and could not resist.
    I too trawl Google images. For Unmapped Country it wasn’t necessary since it was a sequel to North & South (thank you BBC) but for In Her Fashion (soon to be published) I searched and searched for my ‘Charles’. Of course, I already had an intimate knowledge of his characteristics but when sleep is elusive I want a clear image as my characters play out their scenes behind my eyelids. I flirted with Jason O’Mara and Clive Owen but finally settled on Guy Garvey (lead singer from Muse) – perfect – that combination of strength and vulnerability, attractive but not beefcake.
    For my modern novel it was easier – Richard Armitage and Rupert Penry Jones (no contest).
    So it was great to find I am not alone in my voyeuristic surfing!
    Thank you.

  2. Cynthia Haggard

    Thanks for your comment, Chrissie. It’s a great hobby to have for those sleepless nights!

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