Wednesday, July 2, 2014: The Importance of Supporting Characters
Welcome back, everyone! This is the first blog of the month of July. This week’s topic: why supporting characters are important to a story. Much like the supporting cast of a film, the supporting characters in a story help keep the story moving.
Your basic format goes like this: you have the protagonist or main character, and the antagonist, or the person working against the main character. In Valentine, Val Entienne is the protagonist and Rafferty is the antagonist. Val goes on a road trip to California to save her father from Rafferty. If this was all there was to the story, it would be boring and not worth reading (let alone writing). Supporting characters, such as Veronica, Melinda, and Jacob add important details to the story and keep the story moving. If you eliminate Veronica from the story, Val would have no means of emotional support in her hometown of Chicago, while she’s on the road. Without Melinda, Val would never had made any of those pit stops on the way to Cali, and she would never have grown as a character and a person. And, without Jacob, Val wouldn’t have had any opposition during her road trip. The story would basically be Val driving from Chicago to Cali. Boring! Absolutely boring. Also, there are the characters Val meets and helps during her road trip: the women at Allen House, the owner of the mechanic shop, etc. Each one helps to make the story more interesting.
Your supporting characters don’t necessarily have to appear in the story long-term. Val’s cousin Veronica is a permanent character in the story, and so is Melinda, and Lola Vencent. Characters like Lucy, the battered wife Val meets at a motel, and the women at Allen House, are temporary. They make brief appearances in the story, but they are equally important.
Supporting characters help create the necessary conflicts in the story. There are three types of conflict (this is story telling 101): man vs. man, man vs. nature, and man vs. self. In Valentine, more than Rafferty, Jacob poses the most opposition for Val in the first arc of the story. Jacob is the one following Val on the road, making little attempts to keep her from reaching California.
Sometimes supporting characters change positions during the course of the story. They start out as antagonists, but an event occurs and things change. Lola Vencent is a perfect example of this. She and Val start out as enemies, due to a misunderstanding, but later they resolve their differences and become friends.
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