Have you ever created a character who was blah, maybe even boring? I mean obviously, at some point he or she must have served some purpose, or you wouldn’t have created them. Right? But now what do you do with them? Write them off? Some writers just love to kill off characters in their stories. Do you mention them in passing, back in chapter 3, and never see them again? Are they *Gasp* nameless, faceless, and homeless?
You passed an old man, with white hair, dressed in old baggy jeans and wearing a baseball cap and thought “Man, that person sure didn’t amount to much.” They may even have been driving an old beat up truck with a dog named “Old Roy,” riding in the back. If this happened in 1990, you might never have realized you passed a Billionaire named, “Sam Walton.”
Strangely enough, he did not have a heavenly aura around him, and he did not wear a neon sign on his back that said, “Owner and Founder of Wal-Mart, Inc.” He was not overly tall, he did not have big broad shoulders, in fact, it would be quite accurate to say he was average looking.
Let’s face it, not all characters are heroes, leading ladies, or supervillains. We don’t always pay as much attention to someone we consider to be a background character. (Unless your name happens to be Sir Author Conan Doyle.) Doyle had the gift to recognize that even the most boring, seemingly insignificant detail could solve the entire mystery. I would like to suggest you can do the same with your characters as well.
The key is not to give it all away at one time. Consider this example: Chapter one – girl does not like her father, Chapter ten – reader discovers girls father beat her, Chapter 18 – girl grows up to be martial arts instructor, Chapter 24 – girl finds father doing same to little sister, Chapter 30 – girl beats father within an inch of his life.
At the beginning of this story, a girl who does not like her father is nothing new. By itself, the reader might even think, “So?” When you discover the father beat her, you might think, “oh, that makes sense.” When you get to the part about her becoming a martial art instructor, you may find yourself wondering, “did that have anything to do with the father?” By the time you get to the section that shows he did it again, most would think, “Oh he’s evil, somebody needs to teach him a lesson.” Towards the end when she beats him, one might think, “YES, you go, girl!” or “I’m so glad she stood up to him.” Did you see what we did there? She went from victim to hero over the length of the story.
I once created a character who had this mental link with another character. I already had my main characters, and NONE of them had unusual gifts of any kind. At the time I was typing the description, I remember thinking, “Why am I doing this? She’s nobody. She’s not even important to the story.” Boy, was I wrong? She gradually became a main character and took me in a whole different direction.
If you’re a writer, there are no accidents (or there shouldn’t be.) If you get to a point in your mystery, romance, or crime novel that you need to introduce a new antagonist or protagonist; might I suggest, giving your nameless, faceless, homeless character another chance at fulfilling their destiny. Sometimes you might have to work backward and create scenes or even just lines here and there, to show the reader he was there all along. Help your reader discover nobody is as unimportant as others might think. Background characters won’t all become Billionaires that can change the world . . . But on the other hand, you never know.
This article was written by Tedric Garrison on 10-08-17. Tedric has been a writer and photographer for over 40 years. He is the author of the Time Travel University series now available on Amazon.com and is the creator of the website www.writephotos.weebly.com