NaNoWriMo Chronicles: A Few Characters

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In my last post, I laid out my method for character creation. But what kinds of characters does your novel need? Today, we are going to look at seven characters that you should consider having in your novel. Before that, however, let’s define some terms so that you get a basic understanding of characters overall.

Basic Character Definitions:

  • Main Characters - These are characters that the most important in your plot. They are the characters that your story centers around and that if they were removed, you wouldn’t have a story at all. Main characters can be on either side of the ‘fence’, that is - the can be a ‘good’ character or a ‘bad’ character.

    • Example: Frodo in ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ by J. R. R. Tolkien

  • Minor Characters - These are the characters that have backgrounds and have an influence in the story line, but aren’t the primary focus of the story. They are important enough, however, that you cannot remove them from the story without there being a hole of some kind.

    • Example: Duck in ‘Weetzie Bat’ by Francesca Lia Block

  • Protagonist - This is the primary character that your story follows. In a traditional work, this would be the ‘good’ character, the hero. Although, this doesn’t have to be/isn’t always the case. A good writer can produce sympathy for antagonists that are far from ‘good’. Whatever type of protagonist your novel follows, they are to be the character that engages in the main story arc.

    • Example: Harry Potter in ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ by J.K. Rowling

  • Antagonist - This is the character that stands in the way, or whose goal is in direct opposition to the protagonist. They don’t have to be fighting against the protagonist knowingly, but their actions have to stand against the protagonist. While traditionally, the antagonist of a story is a character, in some stories the force against the protagonist doesn’t need to be given a face or name.

    • Example: The Chamberlain in The Dark Crystal

Alright, now that we have some definitions out there, let’s take a look at these seven characters that would be good for your next work!

Seven Characters You Should Consider Having In Your Next Work:

  1. Confidante - This is the character that your protagonist or antagonist shares their secrets and thoughts with. These characters are important in a third person work as they allow the reader to get a glimpse into the primary character’s minds which are normally hidden. It creates a sense of deeper understanding of characters and a connection with the main characters via a (usually) minor character.

  2. Developing Character - This can be considered two different types of characters. First, it could be a character that helps to develop the plot for the main characters. In this instance, the character themselves don’t undergo much of a change in personality or their understanding of self, but they encourage the main character to continue traveling their story arc. Second, this could be a character that undergoes their own small character arc while the other characters travel through the story. So, while this character may or may not be engaged in the primary plot, they have their own individual story arc to follow.

  3. Foil Character - This is a character that is the opposite of either your protagonist or antagonist in sense of personality. So, if you have an antagonist who is cruel and manipulative, this character could be kind and soft. This allows the specifics of your primary character’s personality to become more apparent allowing readers to see both the positive and negative parts of who they are.

  4. Love Interest - I feel like this is a character that defines itself. This is the character that your protagonist or antagonist will eventually fall head over heels for, or will begrudgingly come to love. The biggest thing that I think needs pointed out for this character is that the romance between the primary character and this character doesn’t have to be the main point of the story. Just because you have a love interest, doesn’t mean you have to write a romance.

  5. Mentor - This character is one that lends knowledge to your protagonist when they need it most. Often times this character’s death or loss is meant to give your protagonist a reason to push over the hill they are stuck behind.

  6. Narrator - This is often the character most overlooked. All voices in your story are characters and if you are writing in the third person then your narrator is a character that needs to be addressed. One of the best examples of a well-crafted narrator is in A Series of Unfortunate Events. The narrator becomes part of the reading experience.

  7. Flat Characters - Flat characters are a much-needed thing for every novel. I know you have heard from me over and over, ‘don’t write flat characters’. That applies to your characters that shouldn’t be flat. Not all your characters can be fully developed. You need those misc characters that do the little things in the world around your cast of complex characters. If an author took the time to explain the backstory of every character you met in their novel, it would be never ending. Pay attention to your flat characters and thank them for being who they are, characters that enable your cast to engage in a realistic world.

One of the things to be remembered about these characters is that they don’t have to be seven separate characters. In fact, the first four clumped together into a minor protagonist would make a very good companion for your major protagonist.

Play with your characters, try new character types, try combining or separating characters - maybe it will help you to find your novel traveling in a new direction that you can’t wait to write!

Keep creating!