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NaNo Prep: Adding Secondary and Minor Characters to Your Story Bible

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

We spent the first couple of days of this prep series discussing your main characters and all of the information you should/could collect and record about them in your prep work before you start writing. Now it’s time to turn our focus on . . .

Secondary and Minor Characters

To begin with, let’s answer this question:

What’s the difference between a “secondary” character and a “minor” character?

SECONDARY CHARACTERS are those non-viewpoint characters (we never get inside their heads) who are important to the main characters and are around a lot in the story. They may even have a hand in the resolution of the plot.

      These are your antagonists, best friends, about-to-be-ex-girl/boyfriends, partners, etc. They have considerable presence on page—enough that your readers get to know who they are, at least in relation to your main characters, and may even come to care for them.

MINOR CHARACTERS are the walkons—shop keepers, random people on the bus, faceless/nameless (usually nameless) classmates, the ship’s crew, etc.

Source: MS Office Clipart

Source: MS Office Clipart

      These are the people who populate your story world to keep it from being empty, but they’re the ones whose names, if they’re ever even mentioned, readers aren’t going to remember. These are more of the static, cardboard cutout silhouettes that make up crowd scenes in a stage play. It may be a courier that hands your character an important file, but never has more of a role than that. These are also the characters that you need to see if they’re absolutely necessary or if you can give their tasks to one of your secondary or main characters and eliminate the minor character.

What to Record in Your Story Bible about Secondary/Minor Characters

This is pretty easy: names for those who rate them, descriptions, occupations, roles in the story, and whatever else you end up writing about them.

This section will grow as you write your story and as incidental (or not so incidental) characters pop up in scenes. It always happens. But if you keep track of the ones who do, you can figure out if you can re-use certain minor characters (and possibly even promote them to secondary) instead of constantly bringing on “extras” to fill up the background.


How is your story bible coming along? Are you ready to start NaNo in 15 days?

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