I don’t know about you, but I tend to fall in love with my characters. Doesn’t matter the role — hero, villain, victim — I get dreamy when I think of them. Have you ever fallen into the trap of describing your book-people as ‘the lead characters‘ (yes, plural)? Our favorite Word Nerd, Gabriela Periera offers some wisdom (what else is new?) about why this is something that needs to change as we develop our writing.Take a little journey with me to the land of the Avengers (note the image above). While I think Mr. Stark is a riot, leave us consider the Hulk (the large green dude with all that grit, located in the background) for this trip. If you have seen any of the Avengers films, or even if you’ve seen the current iterations of the Incredible Hulk, it becomes evident rather quickly that he never acts alone. The link here has him engaged with Loki. There are other scenes when he, er, plays with mutant dogs, Thor, Captain America, and any of the others in the photo.Just as Hulk (SMASH! Oh, sorry …) needs someone to play with, so does your protagonist. Not to disparage the other wonderful people in your created landscape: there must be a leader. Think of the whole thing like a pyramid or a ladder: on whose shoulders does your primary character stand? In my book, After, Marlena is my lead. However, her husband and others play prominently at various times. Those people serve other purposes, though.Gabriela identifies five supporting character types in Chapter 8 of her latest book (click the link above where her full name is indicated to visit): Villain, Love Interest, BFF, Mentor, and Fool. She is clear that not all these types need to be evident and some characters play multiple roles. For example, there are a couple people (three in particular, with the possibility of a fourth) that pop to mind as love interests to my Marlena (no spoilers!). One of those also could be the fool while another could be the mentor. Marlena is standing at the point of the pyramid (or the top rung of the ladder — refer to the imagery of your choice), while these other characters serve to support her.
… the point of supporting characters was for them to serve as instruments to help me develop the protagonist more fully. Any detail or information about a supporting character that didn’t further the protagonist’s journey was unimportant to the story (Gabriela).
Who gets the supporting cast award in your story? Is there one (or more) character type you go gooey over? Which one or ones do you leave out and why?
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