Writing novels: your supporting characters
As you are creating your hero and heroine, it’s important to also start planning out the characters for what many people call the “B” plot of your novel.
The hero and heroine have the “A” plot. However, they need a cast of sidekicks around, whether it’s friends, family, co-workers, or all of the aforementioned. The supporting characters have the “B” plot – there is some need that they have that must be fulfilled by the end of the story.
The way that you develop the hero and heroine’s character are by showing how they interact with others. This also goes for the villain. The hero and heroine will value the people around them and treat them well. They may joke with them, they may banter, they may have arguments, their may even be blowout fights in which they stomp off and it appears the relatonship is over, but the hero/heroine aren’t mean-spirited. They ultimately want the best for people – they don’t want to cause people harm.
It’s important that your supporting characters are different than your hero and heroine, and also different from each other. You only need one sneaky, smartassed thief with a heart of gold. You only need one big, macho guy who’s always trying to pick up women. Et cetera. Your supporting characters should be different enough from your hero and heroine that they can play off of them. The heroine is cautious and conservative? Her friend can be the wacky troublemaker who’s always urging the heroine to try out something crazy and harebrained. The hero is a ladies man who’s sworn never to settle down? His friend can be the committed family man.
Throughout the novel, we’re following the hero/heroine’s journey, and it is important for their circumstances to have changed by the end of the story. They need to show growth of character. They may need to be braver, kinder, more tolerant, more trusting, less uptight, more self confident, they may need to forgive wrongs that have been done to them, or avenge those wrongs and move on – whatever issue they had at the beginning of the book needs to have been resolved by the end.
The same goes for your supporting characters. They must have some problem or need at the beginning of the book, and they must have resolved it by the end, and it should be with the help of the hero or heroine. Their story obviously won’t be fleshed out in as much detail as the hero and heroine’s, but there has to be someone other than the hero or heroine who’s had some change in their life, by the end of the book.
As you start plotting your first book, you should watch or re-watch some classic or favorite movies in your genre and read some books in your genre, and pay attention to the supporting cast. How does the hero and heroine interact with them? What changes between the hero and/or heroine and the people around them? Are they finally able to form a relationship, quit the job with the abusive boss, stand up to a parent, leave the country to follow their dreams, etc.?
And this concludes today’s writing lecture. Back to work for me!