We are pleased to welcome writer Christian Martin to the Tuesday Serial site today for the latest in our guest post series. Christian is currently writing the serial “Static Breaker” which appears on Juke Pop Serials. In this post, he shares some of what he’s learned about managing guest appearances by characters other than your main character in a story. You can view previous posts in our guest post series here. Welcome, Christian!
Hello, ladies and gents. There are a lot of things that I’ve learned about writing since starting my serial Static Breaker. In this snazzy guest post I’ll be covering one of those topics just for you: juggling characters.
My series has a single POV character, but he’s usually hanging out with a couple of friends. It can sometimes be challenging to juggle more than two characters together in a scene. Below are some tricks that I’ve found useful:
1) Give them a reason to be there – Don’t have them tag along just because. Why should they be in your story if they don’t make it better? Your characters should earn their place in the story. Secondary characters need skills that can help the main character proceed. If they’re just in the background, and don’t contribute, take them out. Don’t make them the star of the show, but give them their own time to shine. Design problems that make them a necessary part of the team.
2) Give them something to do – Standing still is boring. Don’t make your characters talking heads. Make them a physical part of each scene. Have them interact with the environment. Even if they’re sleeping in the background, you can have them snore and mumble to themselves. Maybe have them roll off of the bed. Simply tagging “he said, she said” over and over gets repetitive real fast. Try: Craig kneeled in front of the rusty oven and pulled it open. It creaked loudly. “How long do you think it’s been since someone lived here?”
3) Give them a voice – Don’t have them all speak the same. Try to make them identifiable just from the way they speak. Get rid of your voice and find theirs. They should all contribute something different to a conversation. Do they have quirks? Favorite phrases? How often do they use contractions? Are they casual? Proper? If something crazy happens, how do they react? Do they use similes a lot? Do they exaggerate?
4) Give them a personality – Yes-men are boring. Give your supporting characters opinions and emotions of their own. Drama is exciting. Don’t be afraid to let them argue and even fight. Supporting characters can still show dissent. They should also have a motivation. Why are they doing what they’re doing? Why be there at all?
5) Give them nuance – One-note characters are boring. If the goofy guy is always the same kind of goofy in every situation, he’s a caricature, not a character. Everyone gets sad and angry at certain times, even if it’s rare. Everyone has their vulnerabilities. Also, humans are especially skilled at holding two conflicting thoughts in their head at once. Show the real breadth of their personality.
By keeping each of these things in mind, your supporting characters will work to reinforce your main characters and bring your story to life. Your readers won’t be confused by who’s who or why they’re there. This isn’t all there is to know about juggling characters, of course, so go explore in your own writing. If you come up with any other tips, let me know.
Christian Martin currently writes Static Breaker on JukePop Serials. The serial, along with some extra goodies, can also be found on the Static Breaker website. Christian is a huge geek. When he’s not writing, he’s usually playing video games or re-watching Firefly. You can hit him up via Twitter.