Side Characters with no point?

Forums Fiction Characters Side Characters with no point?


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    Hope Ann

    Question from Ethan this week!

    How do I include side characters in a “Quest” story who seem to serve no purpose, but who without the quest would seem unrealistic?

    Any thoughts, @princess-foo, @kristianne-hassman, @the-inkspiller, @naiya-dyani, @wolverinerm, @devastate-lasting?

    Victory in the march. Hope in the destination.

    Arindown (Gracie)

    Am I allowed to answer? If not, just ban me.😆

    I think the main thing would be to give each character unique personality, and to flesh them out a bit (unless there’s like 500 of them). Chances are, that as you write the story, they will actually become needed in some ways (characters have a way of doing that).

    Secondly, even if they don’t directly affect the Main Characters, you can still make your story more developed and layered by having them affect each-other. Tolkien did an amazing job of this in the Lord of the Rings. His group of 9 characters was a lot to follow around…but not only did he make them all crucial to Frodo’s journey, but he also made them crucial to each-other. Both Gimli and Legolas had to learn to push past their differences and work together. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli stuck up for Merry and Pippin. Elrond brought Aragorn his sword. And in Helm’s Deep, Legolas and Aragorn had to help each-other face their fear and stay strong.

    And, even if your side characters aren’t even as central as Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, they can still have their own story and character arc. Take Éowyn, Arwen, Faramir, and Haldir the elf of Lórien in the Lord of the Rings, for example. They all have arcs and backstories to make them realistic and believable. Even if they don’t show up more than a few times, they all contribute to the whole story and Frodo’s final victory.

    Finally, side characters are always a great way to add humor and relieve stress. Merry and Pippin are great at this, as well as Tree Beard. In the Wingfeather Saga (by Andrew Peterson) there is a character that shows up briefly only once or twice in the background, but he adds a little bit of comic absurdity. He’s a little piggish creature that has an obsession with fence posts, but he makes the story feel more believable, and full.

    Every side character is like every real person you ever met. They may not directly contribute to your success, but they still affect you in little ways.

    Hope that helps a bit.😉

    Not all those who wander are lost.

    Linyang Zhang

    @hope-ann As a person who has a lot of side characters, I feel that as I write, eventually each character develops their own purpose, whether or not I planned it that way.

    I feel like if your quest feels like it can’t do without the characters, then perhaps you could merge the side characters’ traits onto the main characters. Then again, this depends on how minor of a character they are. Are they characters that go on the quest? Or are they characters that your main team meets on the way?

    All characters should have a purpose, but it doesn’t always have to be major, and I don’t think that these purposes need to be completely established while you’re planning. Often times writing the story itself will give you more inspiration for your characters than sitting and planning every single detail.

    Hope this helps! Good luck on the story!

    "I set a melody upon the scenery I saw outside my window;
    It's beginning in my spacy world."
    - TK

    Hope Ann

    @arindown Yep, everyone can comment. Thanks for the thoughts!

    Victory in the march. Hope in the destination.


    Thanks to both of you! I think I’ll be able to weave the characters in now.


    “I am the Author” I said in a low tone. “I decide everything that has happened, will happen, and is happening in your life.”

    INFP writer and friend of rain, darkness, dragons, and other writers

    Joelle Stone


    Shimrad the cloven!! He’s so funny. I wonder what his name was in the end… 🙂


    P.S. Heads up, I probably won’t ever be here again, so don’t bother replying. Hope this didn’t sound rude. 🙂


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