Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

This post is the fifth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Last week, I gave a quick overview of ways to delve into naming your characters as well as establishing their backgrounds and characteristics. Most of what I wrote pertains to your major characters. You do not need to do as much (or sometimes any) work on minor characters.

Major Characters

Major characters include your protagonist, your protagonist’s sidekick and your antagonist (and perhaps his sidekick/major underling).

These are the people that are clearly going to impact your plot. These are the characters you will need to develop fully. You will need to know beyond their physical characteristics and personality traits and flaws. You will need to know their history and what happened to make them the way they are at the beginning of your story.

Sidekicks

Batman has Robin. Harry Potter has Ronald Weasley. Fred has Barney, while Frodo Baggins has Samwise Gamgee. And who could forget, Han Solo and Chewbacca. Yep, we are talking about sidekicks.

Not every hero needs a sidekick but they sure can help. A sidekick gives your hero someone to rationalize their actions to or discuss their options. But a sidekick can be more than a sounding board. They can offer support, help devise a way to defeat the bad guy and even come to your hero’s rescue. The sidekick often knows the main character better than anyone else and can give the reader a convincing reason to like the hero.

The key with any sidekick is to develop them fully. They should have their own virtues, faults, hopes, dreams, and problems. In other words, you need to develop them just as much as you develop your protagonist.

Antagonist

Your antagonist, the person that will try to thwart your hero and provide conflict for your story, is one of the most important characters to develop. Most authors spend a majority of their time developing their protagonist but don’t give the same effort to the “bad” guy.

Now typically when one thinks of the antagonist of a story – especially a fantasy novel – one thinks of the person as being a bad person – perhaps even evil. You, as the author, need to understand how they came to be like they are. Everyone has a reason for what they do. No one is evil just to be evil. It can be their quest for power, revenge, or even a mental disorder, but there needs to be something the drives this character. We are the culmination of our environment, our genetics, our past, and our choices. You need to know these things about your antagonist though all of them may never actually appear in your story. (Check out this list of motivations for antagonists.)

To help create a well-rounded antagonist, consider giving him some redeeming qualities. And by this I mean something other than he likes puppies. Almost no one is evil all the time. And remember that sometimes the bad guy wins. Not every instance does the hero of the story need to thwart the villain.

Of course, your antagonist does not have to be a bad person. It can easily be someone whose ideas don’t mesh with your protagonist. It could be a business partner who wants to have a successful business no matter what the cost. Your hero may also want the business to succeed but needs to be a man of integrity. These two characters are far from enemies, but their different needs pull them in opposing directions.

And your antagonist may not be one person but a group or even just an obstacle to overcome such as the fear of speaking in front of an audience. But you simply don’t have a story without an obstacle, conflict or bad guy so be sure to create a strong antagonist, and you will have a better, more believable story.

Minor Characters

Minor characters are the opposite of major characters. Very little is usually written about them. They may appear in a scene or two but aren’t likely to influence the outcome of the story.

Many of these characters are flat, two-dimensional types that could easily be replaced. As an author, you are not going to spend the time to flesh these people out before writing.

Heck, some of these minor characters may not even have names. The bartender or cab driver may be such a character. They may speak and interact in the scene, but their contribution is negligible.

There will be many characters who may fall in between major and minor but don’t waste your time trying to categorize each one. Simply decide how important they are to the story, and that will let you know how much time to spend on them.

For tips on dealing with a long list of characters in your novel, check out my post “Novel writing: Dealing with a large cast of characters.”

Next week, I will talk about the setting of your novel.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

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Z is for Zoom #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of antagonists.

On my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will tie that day’s topic to antagonists but on the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about antagonists from movies, TVs or books. On Wednesdays, my Quote of the Week will be from an antagonist that matches the letter of the day. Enjoy.

Z is for Zoom, the super villain and archenemy of Barry Allen (aka The Flash). In the DC comic world there are two characters that are known as Zoom. They are also known as the Reverse-Flash. (There are three additional characters in addition to the ones listed here as Zoom that were called the Reverse-Flash.)

The first is Professor Eobard “Zoom” Thawne. He debuted as the Reverse-Flash in 1963. His costume is the reverse of The Flash, yellow with highlights of red.

The other character is Hunter Zolomon. He is the archenemy of Wally West (aka Kid Flash). He first appeared in 2002. In the beginning, he was actually friends with Wally, and he decided to make Wally a better hero by causing him to suffer a great personal tragedy or loss like the previous Flashes.

Both Zoom characters can travel at super-human speeds and as with most villains, they have a twisted sense that what they are doing is “right.” And as with many comic book characters, there are many storylines pitting these super villains against The Flash in his many incarnations.

And in case you want to check out my other antagonists from the challenge…

A is for Apocalypse

B is for Bad Boys (parenting)

C is for Cruella de Vil

D is for Darth Vader (Quote)

D is for To Die for Cake (Recipe)

E is for Evil (Writing)

F is for Freddy Kruger

G is for Gollum

H is for High School (parenting)

I is for Iron Monger

J is for Jafar (Quote)

K is for Killers (Writing)

L is for Loki

M is for Maleficent

N is for No (parenting)

O is for Oggie Boogie

P is for Professor Moriarty (Quote)

Q is for Questions (Writing)

R is for the Riddler

S is for Sauron 

T is for Technology (parenting)

U is for Ursula

V is for Voldemort (Quote)

W is for Witches (writing)

X is for Xenomorph

Y is for Yondu 

Y is for Yondu #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of antagonists.

On my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will tie that day’s topic to antagonists but on the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about antagonists from movies, TVs or books. On Wednesdays, my Quote of the Week will be from an antagonist that matches the letter of the day. Enjoy.

Today is the letter Y, which is for Yondu, one of the antagonists from the 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy.

Now Yondu, the leader of the space pirates known as the Ravengers, is not the main antagonist in the film. That would be Ronin, but Yondu does try to thwart the actions of the main character, Star Lord. Yondu puts a bounty out on Star Lord for betraying him and pursues Star Lord for much of the movie before briefly allying with him in the end.

In the Marvel comics, Yondu is a founding member of the Guardians of the Galaxy team and becomes an honorary member of the Avengers. His weapon is a bow with arrows made of a special sound-sensitive metal. The arrows change direction in response to his whistles.

In the movie, he controls a single arrow that can whip through whole groups of attackers or sail through a crowd without touching a soul.

Like the Marvel character Loki (see below as the L antagonist), Yondu can play the part of an antagonist but also be an antihero which makes him an interesting example and a good reminder that characters can be good or bad depending upon the circumstances and point of view.

And in case you want to check out my other antagonists from the challenge…

A is for Apocalypse

B is for Bad Boys (parenting)

C is for Cruella de Vil

D is for Darth Vader (Quote)

D is for To Die for Cake (Recipe)

E is for Evil (Writing)

F is for Freddy Kruger

G is for Gollum

H is for High School (parenting)

I is for Iron Monger

J is for Jafar (Quote)

K is for Killers (Writing)

L is for Loki

M is for Maleficent

N is for No (parenting)

O is for Oggie Boogie

P is for Professor Moriarty (Quote)

Q is for Questions (Writing)

R is for the Riddler

S is for Sauron 

T is for Technology (parenting)

U is for Ursula

V is for Voldemort (Quote)

W is for Witches (writing)

X is for Xenomorph

X is for Xenomorph #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of antagonists.

On my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will tie that day’s topic to antagonists but on the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about antagonists from movies, TVs or books. On Wednesdays, my Quote of the Week will be from an antagonist that matches the letter of the day. Enjoy.

X is for Xenomorph, the alien antagonist from the movie Alien film series. The species debuted in the film Alien (1979) and reappeared in the sequels Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992) and Alien: Resurrection (1997). The alien also shows up in Alien vs Predator (2004) and its sequel Aliens vs Predator: Requiem (2007). ]

While in the first film, these creatures were just called an alien or an organism, it is in the second that Lieutenant Gorman refers to them as Xenomorph.

These aliens are unique antagonists because they are dangerous in several different forms. The Queen Aliens lay eggs. And from these eggs come the first antagonists known as “facehuggers.” These creatures attach to the face of a living host. From there they insert into the host an embryo known as a “chestbuster.” After a period of gestation, these creatures erupt violently from the host’s chest, resulting in the death of the host. The “chestbuster” than matures into an adult form. These adult aliens are the drones or workers for the Queen.

This species has one goal – the propagation of its species. In order to do that they need hosts and will destroy any lifeform that poses a threat to them. That whole chest busting moment definitely makes these aliens a scary antagonist.

And in case you want to check out my other antagonists from the challenge…

A is for Apocalypse

B is for Bad Boys (parenting)

C is for Cruella de Vil

D is for Darth Vader (Quote)

D is for To Die for Cake (Recipe)

E is for Evil (Writing)

F is for Freddy Kruger

G is for Gollum

H is for High School (parenting)

I is for Iron Monger

J is for Jafar (Quote)

K is for Killers (Writing)

L is for Loki

M is for Maleficent

N is for No (parenting)

O is for Oggie Boogie

P is for Professor Moriarty (Quote)

Q is for Questions (Writing)

R is for the Riddler

S is for Sauron 

T is for Technology (parenting)

U is for Ursula

V is for Voldemort (Quote)

W is for Witches (writing)

W is for Witches #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of antagonists.

On my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will tie that day’s topic to antagonists but on the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about antagonists from movies, TVs or books. On Wednesdays, my Quote of the Week will be from an antagonist that matches the letter of the day. Enjoy.

The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, the old witch in Hansel and Gretel, and the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid – yes, today is the letter W, which is for witches.

In many stories, the witch is the antagonist. She is portrayed as haggard, old, and grotesque. And her use of magic is for her own gain. They are the bad girls of the story but just because you are using a witch as an antagonist doesn’t mean you need to stick with this type of stereotype.

Witches don’t have to be old with a wart on their nose. They can be tall and seductive. Or perhaps they are the petite blond with an angel’s face. And they really don’t have to be evil at all. But this is a post about antagonists so for today the witches will be on the wrong side of our protagonist.

Whether you stay with a stereotype or try to go the total opposite way will depend on your story. But as with any antagonist, be sure to spend time getting to know them and understanding what motivates them. And make sure there is a reason your story needs a witch with magic verses a normal human. The antagonist needs to fit the story.

And in case you want to check out my other antagonists from the challenge…

A is for Apocalypse

B is for Bad Boys (parenting)

C is for Cruella de Vil

D is for Darth Vader (Quote)

D is for To Die for Cake (Recipe)

E is for Evil (Writing)

F is for Freddy Kruger

G is for Gollum

H is for High School (parenting)

I is for Iron Monger

J is for Jafar (Quote)

K is for Killers (Writing)

L is for Loki

M is for Maleficent

N is for No (parenting)

O is for Oggie Boogie

P is for Professor Moriarty (Quote)

Q is for Questions (Writing)

R is for the Riddler

S is for Sauron 

T is for Technology (parenting)

U is for Ursula

V is for Voldemort (Quote)

V is for Voldemort (Quote of the Week) #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of antagonists.

On my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will tie that day’s topic to antagonists but on the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about antagonists from movies, TVs or books. On Wednesdays, my Quote of the Week will be from an antagonist that matches the letter of the day. Enjoy.

“I’m going to kill you, Harry Potter. I’m going to destroy you.
After tonight, no one will ever again question my power. After tonight if they speak of you, they’ll only speak of how you begged for death. And how I being a merciful Lord… obliged.” ~ Lord Voldemort (the power hungry antagonist from the Harry Potter books/movies. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – 2005)

And in case you want to check out my other antagonists from the challenge…

A is for Apocalypse

B is for Bad Boys (parenting)

C is for Cruella de Vil

D is for Darth Vader (Quote)

D is for To Die for Cake (Recipe)

E is for Evil (Writing)

F is for Freddy Kruger

G is for Gollum

H is for High School (parenting)

I is for Iron Monger

J is for Jafar (Quote)

K is for Killers (Writing)

L is for Loki

M is for Maleficent

N is for No (parenting)

O is for Oggie Boogie

P is for Professor Moriarty (Quote)

Q is for Questions (Writing)

R is for the Riddler

S is for Sauron 

T is for Technology (parenting)

U is for Ursula

U is for Ursula #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of antagonists.

On my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will tie that day’s topic to antagonists but on the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about antagonists from movies, TVs or books. On Wednesdays, my Quote of the Week will be from an antagonist that matches the letter of the day. Enjoy.

U is for Ursula, the sea witch and antagonist from Disney’s The Little Mermaid (1989). She is half octopus/half human and all evil. Ursula uses a combination of magic and deception to achieve her goals. She cares not for the less fortunate that she proclaims to help.

Instead, what she wants most is to seek revenge on King Triton and rule the Sea in his place. She uses her cunning ways to trick his mermaid daughter Ariel into trading her voice for a pair of human legs. If Ariel can get the prince to fall in love with her in three days, she will remain a human. But Ursula isn’t about to let that happen. She continually sabotages Ariel before succeeding in getting King Triton to give his life for his daughter’s.

One of Disney’s best and most terrifying villains, Ursula is voiced by American actress and comedian Pat Carroll. And like Oggie Boogie, this is a villain with an awesome song. Check it out.

And in case you want to check out my other antagonists from the challenge…

A is for Apocalypse

B is for Bad Boys (parenting)

C is for Cruella de Vil

D is for Darth Vader (Quote)

D is for To Die for Cake (Recipe)

E is for Evil (Writing)

F is for Freddy Kruger

G is for Gollum

H is for High School (parenting)

I is for Iron Monger

J is for Jafar (Quote)

K is for Killers (Writing)

L is for Loki

M is for Maleficent

N is for No (parenting)

O is for Oggie Boogie

P is for Professor Moriarty (Quote)

Q is for Questions (Writing)

R is for the Riddler

S is for Sauron 

T is for Technology (parenting)