Supportive Characters

Types of Characters

Round: Name this character. Let the reader see him and hear him. Give him emotions, thoughts, desires, problems to overcome, character growth to achieve. This is a fully fleshed out person.

Flat: A simple character that only needs to enter the stage to give one or two lines. Hint at a life beyond that moment through appearance or way of speaking but don’t delve too deep into him. This character may enter the stage in several scenes but has no major impact.

Stock: characters that are stereotypical and therefore immediately recognised by the audience. A stock character has no unique features, no individuality and isn’t meant to draw attention to himself. He exists to fill the story-world.

Character Alignment

Basically, all characters must make their choices within two lines of thought. One is the law and the other is morals.

Lawful characters uphold the law. Unlawful character don’t give a fuck what the laws say and neutral characters see laws more like a guideline and will break them when needed.

Good characters go out of their way to make morally sound choices. Evil characters go out of their way to make morally bad choices. Neutral characters can be sway between the two, depending on the situation.

Examples:

lawful good – superman
neutral good – iron man, harry potter
chaotic good – V in V for vendetta
lawful neutral – Effy (Hunger Games)
neutral neutral – the oracle (the matrix)
chaotic neutral – Captain Jack Sparrow
lawful evil – Darth Vader
neutral evil – Voldemort
chaotic evil – The Joker

The Function of Supporting Characters

The function of supporting characters is to carry the story forward and allow us to get to know the main character better. Every person in the group should carry their own weight by bringing knowledge or by having a unique skill  to the table that pays off later in the story. Each person stands for some quality, an aspect of the story’s theme that transcends the narrow significance he holds as an individual.

Make them vary in age, gender and social class. This also helps to appeal to a larger audience. Indicate the importance of each particular character by naming him, hurt him or make him likeable by having him struggle to do the right thing or possibly obtain enough power to potentially change the outcome of the story. Help your reader remember them by mentioning them every 40 pages or so and by tagging important characters with easily recognisable features such as a limp or stutter.

Contrast with the protagonist

All the characters are part of an interconnected web, distinguished by contrast. We constantly compare ourselves and others to everybody else. Readers do the same with fictional characters. It also allows the writer to let us know how this trait is viewed in the story universe.

External comparison

Simply show the protagonist behave in one way and have another character behave differently in the same situation. While every supporting character should showcase the main character, there can also be a mirror-character. This character shows alternative outcomes for the protagonist. Example: Gollum in Lord of the Rings.

Internal comparison

We notice traits in others that are important to us. So, what we notice in other people also tells something about ourselves. Secondly, it says something about how the protagonist views himself.

Example: Comparison in two directions

Accountant John, lawyer Sarah and Shop-girl Eva sat at the corner booth of the diner.
‘That’ll be fourteen pounds.’ said the waitress. She handed them the bill and turned to attend to another customer.
‘Let’s make it eighteen?’ said Eva. (generous)
John calculated the tip but decided one pound each is enough. ‘Let’s each tip her a pound.’ (frugal)
Sarah scoffed. ‘All she did is hand us some plates and a glass of water. I’m not tipping her for that.’ (cold-hearted)
‘Two pounds would be a proper tip, actually.’ said Eva. John ignored her. Eva rolled her eyes. ‘Fine, I’ll give her three pounds extra myself then.’

Supporting Characters Roles

Character Archetype

Archetype means universal symbol. For example: The hero or The mentor. Beginner writers often get hung up on googling archetypes for their story but this is a waste of time. Archetypes are simply characters with similar roles across many stories from many story-tellers. Every writer must decide for himself which functions or roles are required to make his story work and the characters that perform them should be unique to his story.

The hero (or protagonist)

… is the main character, often the POV character. This is the one your audience is rooting for.

The villain (or antagonist)

…. is the main opposition for the hero. He is not necessarily evil, but simply the one who stands in direct competition and therefore causes the most conflict and obstacles for the hero.

The mentor

… is a person who is protective over the hero and helps him gain the knowledge and skills needed to achieve his goals. Often similar to a father-figure.

The side-kick

… is the bestest buddy. A good side-kick is knowledgable of the special world that the hero enters at the end of act 2 and has a few bits of knowledge and skills to bring to the table along with a huge amount of emotional support. Sometimes the hero gets two side-kicks: one representing emotion (EG, Ron Weasly) and one representing reason (EG Hermoine).

The threshold guardian

… keep unworthy people from going through doorways and gates . They are also indicators of new power on the way. They can be against the hero, indifferent to the hero or even allies but they will still always serve their purpose. No one goes onto the next stage before proven to be worthy. They can be thought of as bouncers, bodyguards or doorkeepers and represent ordinary obstacles people encounter in life such as prejudice, bad luck and opposition.

The love – interest

A pretty woman for the hero to fall in love with over the course of the story. A main character in romance stories but more often a subplot character in adventure stories. Sometimes the love-interest is also a side-kick.