Yesterday we talked a little bit about the whys of supporting/minor characters, today we’ll discuss the who.
In general I’m ignoring the walk-ons – the characters whose only job is to add texture to a scene – to focus on supporting characters with speaking roles. Like main characters, minor characters tend to fall into archetypal constructs as well, and you can keep these archetypes in mind as you develop your minor characters.
1. The Sidekick – This character provides skills that your main characters don’t have, acting as a sounding board for expositional monologues, and occasionally causing additional conflict for the protagonist. Typically the sidekick is around a lot, and could probably be classed as a minor-major character. (Think of Ron and Hermione in Harry Potter)
2. The Mentor – This character exists to advise a main character and pass on valuable information. Usually things that the mentor has to say are not only intended for the character, but for the audience as well. (If we return to Harry Potter, Dumbledore fills this role)
3. The Love Interest – Love is a great way to cause additional conflict for a main character. Keep in mind that just because one member of the pair is in love, the other doesn’t have to return their affections. How does unrequited love affect a main character’s actions? What about if they are the recipient of unrequited affections? (Think of Gale in the Hunger Games trilogy)
4. The Fool – The fool is a character who says the things that the protagonist may not want to hear but needs to hear. Just because the fool is called “The Fool” doesn’t mean he or she is foolish. In many cases, the fool may be the wisest character in your story, only no one seems to listen. (Dori in Finding Nemo is an example of this kind of character)
Can you think of any more archetypes common to the supporting cast?
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