Writing Tips – How to Write Compelling Side Characters

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Catherine LaCroix
Cat is the author of the bestselling romance novel, "The Whispers of Rings," and numerous other award winning publications. She can often be found enjoying wine and cuddling a bunny.

I was asked by readers to talk more about side characters after my writing tips. First of all, thank you for joining me and for the feedback! I dedicate this entry to you!

So, now that we’ve talked a little bit about how to give our characters more depth, we’ll go over what I promised we’d talk about later.

Hilde Olrick. Well, her and others. Or how to create side characters that, even if they have minimal impact on the plot, create lasting impressions on readers. Let’s begin!

Need more writing tips?
Want to learn how to write like a pro? Have a look at Soapbox’s articles on writing tips now!

In all forms of media, supporting characters are integral in serving the main character, world building, and moving the plot. One of my favorite examples is NieR’s Devola and Popola. In my top three writing suggestions, I said that every character has an agenda and these girls push theirs. Hard.

Going to their extent definitely isn’t necessary in our every day writing. This is just one example! Other famous examples include Samwell Tarly in a Song of Ice and Fire, Ariadne in Inception, and Imad in Kingdom of Heaven.

In my personal writing, my favorite example is Hilde. This ‘built-to-last’ woman with cropped hair and the ability to toss kegs like pillows runs the Cursed Elixir in Resonance.

“Another character, Hilde, turned out to be one of my favorite individuals in the whole book.” -Johnathan Vargo

I went back to Resonance and counted Hilde’s lines. 10. What in the world drew so many people to this unforgiving barmaid in 10 lines of dialogue?

hildex

 

Personality Through Actions
Despite her lack of dialogue, Hilde’s actions show she’s a hard worker, appreciative to her customers, and loves her job. She smiles often and laughs easily. These are traits that many readers identify with or value in other people. These kinds of people are easy to relate and open up to. It’s another excellent way to show your character’s personality without telling. And don’t forget, they’re living their own lives Have their actions relate to that.

Next, when Hilde does speak, what’s she saying?

“Hilde! The ale’s dried up o’er here!” A bawdy patron interrupted us, raking his mug against the table twice before Hilde openly scowled at him.
“Loosen the strings on your corset, Robert, or you’ll have nowhere to put that ale.”
“Gods love ya, woman, ye got all night to chat. Just get us some more booze first!”
“Gods love you, Robert, you’d be wearing that ale if you didn’t tip so damn well.”
“You’ll never find one as lovely as she. Treats you like gold, she does!” Robert’s companion at the table laughed and toasted Hilde as she rushed away.

Personality Through Dialogue
Dialogue is one of the most powerful tools for establishing all characters, but it’s especially important with side characters. Obviously, they won’t have as many lines as our main characters, so with that thought, it’s very important that what they say counts. Interactions with main characters and other side characters can be used to set the scene, introduce new plot elements, or–in the case of my favorite twins–distract them from the truth.

Lastly,

Let Them Shine
Find their strengths and lock onto them! Give them their moment of fame in the weave of your tale. Having a side character who can serve as a later, unscene plot device is wonderful for an author and a delightful surprise for the reader.

Hilde was so popular in Resonance, she earned her own story in Requiem.

“Oh no. Goodness no. That’s all wrong,” Alan interjected.
“That’s exactly how it went! Alan you great coward, hush!” Hilde countered.
“Alright love, I’m sorry.” He tipped his glass to mine.

Happy Writing!


Art of Hilde by Marlena Mozgawa
Johnathan Vargo’s Amazon can be found here

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Catherine LaCroix

Catherine LaCroix

Cat is the author of the bestselling romance novel, "The Whispers of Rings," and numerous other award winning publications. She can often be found enjoying wine and cuddling a bunny.

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