How Minor is Minor?

Minor Characters That Is

I like to use minor characters to populate the setting and give the main action a larger context. I think it’s an important part of world-building. As a superheroic setting, the Jagged Earth is rife with possibilities for less-than-major heroes and villains. However, we’ve all seen movies where the supporting cast steals the show.

I don’t want to upstage the main character(s). but when a team is involved it makes for interesting dynamics. My challenge is to keep the names of multiple characters in front of the reader without making it difficult for the reader to realize which characters are the ones to keep track of and which fall into the “window dressing” category. This becomes especially true since I enjoy throwing in a few plot twists here and there. Occasionally I want to “hide” a character in the background until unveiling them for maximum effect later in the story.

There’s a similar problem with sprinkling in the names of locations and background detail about the setting, especially for the Jagged Earth. I don’t want to lose the reader in details that they don’t have to remember in order to understand the primary action, but I want to have enough that the setting is larger than just one story. I personally find speculative fiction benefits from a larger canvas whereupon many different characters and stories can play out. For many suspense, action-adventure and mystery stories, the characters themselves provide a “setting” that moves from story to story.

The Answer

I don’t know that there is one. I’m gradually coming around to the conclusion that the answer may be different for each writer. It may come down to genre conventions and expectations for particular types of stories. It may come down to personal style and my style will be influenced greatly by the books in my library that I enjoy(ed) the most.

So for stories set in the Jagged Earth story world, I’m going to trust in my readers. I’m going to keep dropping in details that mirror the complexity found in real life. It isn’t always obvious what is important when it first passes in front of us, and not just when you’re in high school.


Written by D. D. Wolf

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I'm on my 5th or 6th career depending on how you count them, but ideally this one will be my last with the kind help of our readers. I've traveled to several states across the U.S., but the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina will always be where I'm most comfortable. I've been an avid reader of comics for more years than I'm going to mention, but I return time after time to the old pulps. Obviously the Doc Savage books have been a tremendous influence. There's just something about seeing and hearing those characters in your mind's eye, just the way YOU, as the reader, think they should be.. I've been writing poems, lyrics and stories of varying quality since I was in my teens, which means most of my archives are on paper in three-ring binders! I've been creating characters in various RPG systems for at least that long. I've always thought characters made the story: good characters can live on through story after story. It wasn't until the last 6 or 7 years that I felt I could write characters well enough to be engaging. You'll have to let me know how I'm doing.

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