Know Your Characters

This post, from Megan Rebekah, originally appeared on her Megan Rebekah Blogs…and Writes blog on 10/26/09.

I had a wonderful weekend! How about all of you? I got to spend two days with my best friend, her husband and their 3-week old baby.

As any parent knows, a household with a newborn is somewhat chaotic. We noted several times how great it is that we know each other so well, and are so comfortable and and open, that there was no awkwardness or need for apologies. I could blend in easily with her new life because we’ve been friends for almost ten years. Not just friends, but best friends

Like everything else in life, I made the mental connection back into writing. There are different types of characters in our books, and they each play an important role.

Background characters.
In real life, I would equate these to people I see at work but don’t really know. I might see them come in and out of the lobby, I may even know their name, but that’s often it. We’ll exchange friendly smiles as we pass in the hall, but that’s the extent of our relationship.

In our books, these characters need to be just as fleeting. They flit in and out of the novel so quick, or play such a minor role, that we don’t need to know much about them. We don’t need to know the full name, age, occupation and dream date for the doorman at the heroine’s apartment building (unless he’s her love interest, but then he wouldn’t be a background character).

Intermediary characters
The real life comparison would be co-workers, neighbors, and maybe that blind date your great-aunt Gertrude set you up on last month. You learn details about these people, but you might be hard pressed to describe them to a police sketch artist if the need ever arose. I know our receptionist has a twin sister and she takes cream and sugar in her coffee. She wears slacks and skirts. I’ve never seen her in a dress. But I don’t know if she hates dresses, or just doesn’t have any appropriate for work.

In our books, these characters might be the same roles: a minor co-worker, a bad blind date, a random neighbor. We need a tiny taste of who they are, and that’s it. Enough that we understand their role, but significant or personal details don’t need to be revealed.
 

Read the rest of the post, which covers Recurring Characters and Main Characters, on Megan Rebekah Blogs…and Writes.

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