Well, we made it… 4 episodes in 4 weeks. This week, as you already know, we are talking about supporting characters and how your story resolution might go.
So, without further ado, let’s soldier on.
Part IIIe – Supporting Characters
Supporting characters. Whether you love them or hate them, they are (usually) a necessary facet of any story. But what sorts of things do you need to consider when you’re creating them?
For me, I try to keep them to a minimum. What I mean by that is, I only bring in a supporting character if they move the story forward. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have people in my stories. Far from it. I just don’t spend any time giving a face and a voice to the background people. I treat them as the white noise of my story, so to speak.
How much depth should I give this supporting cast? My rule of thumb is as follows: make them only as deep as you need to. I don’t generally give them a back story, but I do try and think of who they are and what might motivate them. I don’t want them to be flat, lifeless characters after all.
Still, they only get as much personality as they need without being completely 2-dimensional. I also try very hard to not create the stereotypical characters (you might never know it from my tongue-in-cheek description of the main characters).
Let’s take a look at the story I’ve been creating for a moment to create one or two supporting characters. In the basic plotting I’ve already done, the family escapes a mugger by hopping a taxi. It just so happens that the taxi driver, one Estavez Roshanko, considers himself a bit of a player in the area.
He claims to know everyone and everything that’s going on. Great, says Dad. We need to find a guide to take the family off the beaten track to search for relics. Estavez sets the family up with a guide (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).
I haven’t really spent any time giving Estavez any back story or really much of a personality, but I can already picture him in my mind. He really only serves a single purpose; to get the family out in the wild on route to finding a fabulous artifact. I won’t bother spending any time defining the muggers. I will describe them, but for the purposes of the story, they aren’t all that important.
At this point, I could create the guide. Chances are, I would need to give her (fooled you, didn’t I… you thought it would be a man) more personality and even a bit of a story of her own since she’ll be spending a lot of time with the family.
Part IIIe – The Resolution
You might be asking yourself, “but what about the climax?”. Good question. Your climax will be part of the overall plotting. It is important, don’t get me wrong, but a story with a great climax but terrible ending falls flat.
You can sometimes get away with a weaker climax, but it’s the ending that will stick in the reader’s mind (see an earlier post by Sean to see what I mean).
Anybody out there ever heard of ‘Deus et machina’? Basically it means pulling the ending out of nowhere (it translates directly as God out of the machine, I believe). It’s definitely not the recommended way to go. The ending has to be logical based on everything that came before.
It’s OK for the ending to be something of a surprise, however, your reader needs to be able to look back and say, “Ah, yes, that makes sense.” If they can’t, you need to try again.
When I was working on my first book, I knew how it was going to end long before I ever got to the half-way point. That knowledge allowed me to write towards the ending. JK Rowling said very much the same thing about her Harry Potter series. She said that she knew how it was going to end even before the first book was complete.
Is there a magic bullet for endings? Not really. I guess your ending should be dependent on the feeling(s) you have tried to generate throughout the story. You might also want to consider whether you want to have a sequel or if this is the end. What you don’t want to do is make the ending feel rushed. Sean will see right through it .
For my sample story, I believe that the family will emerge from their adventures more committed to each other. Unfortunately, they have made a lot of enemies who are now chasing them. Fortunately, they have made a few very good friends who are looking out for them. They can’t go home to their old lives, but they don’t mind. They’ve grown beyond them and the adventuring bug has firmly taken hold of them.
Strong ending? It doesn’t sound like it so far, but then I am missing about 90% of the plot points so I don’t know what else I can put in. However, what I have gives me a good general feeling for the resolution of this story.
Part IV – The Wrapup
We’ve talked about a lot of things the past few weeks. By no means are these the only things you need to consider when writing, but they will get you well down the road.
How has your sample story been going? I can’t say for sure if mine will grow more or stay as it is here on the site. Time will tell.
What other pieces of the story do you consider important to mention? Have you anything you’d like to share with me and/or the general readers? Email me if you do. I’d love to hear from you. My address is email@example.com.
Thanks for spending the last 4 weeks with me. I look forward to hearing from you.