The Supporting Cast
Every story needs at least one main character and most have at
least three or four. They’re the characters who carry the
plot and tell the tale. But they need help just like movie stars
need supporting actors to make things work. Sometimes it can be
these overlooked characters who give the story its flesh and color.
Some of these people might even be good enough to be recycled.
In about a month I’ll be participating in a writer’s
conference and one of the panels that I’ve asked to be included
in is titled, Spear Carriers: The Characters Other Than the Protagonist.
It sounds like a fascinating subject that is hardly ever explored.
When writing my novels I usually have to decide which characters
are disposable and which ones might be invited back in a future
episode. After all, I write murder mysteries and have to be careful
about who I bump off. In The Unreal McCoy, my first book
I didn’t even think about return engagements. Some of the
folks were likeable but not necessarily compelling enough for an
By the time I got to my second book I was looking for people who
might just be interesting enough to invite back. There are actually
three characters in Turn Left at September who I would
consider including in forthcoming novels. The first one, Gregory
Price, a crime-beat newspaper reporter has already made an appearance
in my third, yet to be published book. I also gave Albert McCoy,
one of my main guys a love interest named Ruby. She wasn’t
originally intended to be an ongoing part of the group but I kinda
like her. She’s a strong, good-hearted woman and is absolutely
wild about McCoy. I’ll find some room for her in the future.
That brings me to “Harley Charlie,” a northern Michigan
Chippewa with a passion for Harleys. He’s the prototypical
sidekick type that every hero depends on. I tried to make him bright
and stable, the pillar of strength that gives the reader a sense
of comfort just knowing he’s around.
Realistically I have to limit the number of characters who get
a lot of “camera” time because, as a reviewer I know
how confusing and annoying it can be to try to keep track of a cast
of thousands. Hopefully I’ll be able to feature my main characters
and simply flavor but not overwhelm the stew with interesting and
intriguing contributors. If I get it wrong, I’m sure I’ll
hear about it.
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