Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Best Supporting Role

We all know how important our main characters are, right? Without a protagonist there is no antagonist and vice versa. Often, the protagonist has a best friend-a supporting role.

Now, what about the rest of the cast? Even the tiniest role in a book is a supporting role. A role deemed worthy of award winning possibilities. They must be. There must be a reason for them to be there.

Even in YA, I don't have the parents around just sitting on the couch and watching TV....unless, that's what they do that annoys their teenager so much that she feels the need to go blow up the network station.

In our lives, we tend to have folks that drift in and out without contributing much to our existence other than a new face or a friendly smile. In our writing, those folks do not exist.

My first attempt at a novel, written at the age of twelve or thirteen, had TEN, count them TEN MAIN characters. I hadn't grasped the concept of subtle supporting roles. Beware of this. Do not allow your supporting characters to overpower your main characters, but rather add to them, lift them and push them in a way to move the rest of the plot forward.

How about your supporting roles? Are you staying conscious to keep them relevant and supportive, rather than distracting?


  1. Supporting characters should be no more or no less to the reader than what your main character thinks of them. That's the rule I write by, but not always successfully. Great point here.

  2. Um...I think you just called me out here. I'm going to have to take a deeper look.

  3. Interesting post, Kristi. In this ms, I have two main characters. The supporting cast definitely stays in the background. Although I do have a twist with one that I think is kind of fun :)

  4. I like to have my characters in tiers, main, supporting and the chorus. My supportings actually support my mains, but because I am an Equal Opportunity writer I also sometimes let the chorus have lines because sometimes you never know when one of them will do something heroic.

  5. Still not writing, but still learning from what you write! Thanks, Teach!

  6. If supporting characters aren't used to kill time or as a tangent, they are effective tools in advancing plot and growth of the protagonist. Just like you don't want to pepper a manuscript with details that don't advance the plot, neither do you want to pepper a manuscript with people who don't enhance the story. I think about the backstory of each character - big and small, to make sure they have dimension. If they're there to serve the protagonist's story, they can't take over.

  7. Susan, that's a good way to think of it! I'll have to write that down. :0)

    Tina, well it wasn't intended. LOL :0) It's difficult to be a new writer and then see where you've gone wrong and had no clue. It will work out fine. :-)

    Jemi; I love those twists and the supporting characters are great for those!!

    Writer: I like that, tiers and Equal Opportunity writer. LOL

    PJ: Why not? You better pick up that pen girl! :0)

    Theresa: I agree and great way to describe their effectiveness! Thank you for stopping by!

  8. I usually have one or two main supporting characters, the rest are very minimal.

    With my current WIP, I have two MC's and 2 major supporting roles. However, there are quite a few other very important supporting characters as well. This book has become so much more intricate than I'd originally thought.

  9. Funny how my supporting characters are the ones that steal my heart. I just try not to let them steal the story. :)

  10. What? My characters should support the MCs? I think I need a whip to keep them at bay. They ALL think they're important. Nice post. :D

  11. I agree with Heidi. I have a supporting character that truly makes the story - even if he is not the story. Without him, the story would fall flat. But if I let him, he'd walk in and take over.

  12. I think this is very important, and some books fall flat and it shows!

    I'm having a contest on my blog if you are interested in adding it to your list...


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