Minor Characters: It's All in the Details
Sometimes, it's not easy coming up with a subject to
discuss. Nevertheless, I feel it necessary to talk about the importance
of "minor" characters and discuss the fact that even minor characters
aren't really so minor, when we come to think about it.
I've often been fascinated by how some people seem to
like the random personas that I've included in the stuff I've written
so far. I never seem content to stick with the mundane, canon, or the
usual material floating around. Whenever I write fan fiction, for example,
it seems that I always have to include a random crossover or dump in a
character that I think would be nifty to have in that situation.
Unknown to many, I wrote a Jurassic Park fanfic and a
pair of self-insertion stories before I started releasing Nuke 'Em 'Till
They Glow!! to the general public on the FFML. Those stories never saw
the light of day, although I was able to turn one in for an assignment
in Junior High. The Jurassic Park story included two heavily-armored,
power-suit-wearing, time-traveling guys who desperately wanted to save
the parkfor no reason, it seemed, except for the fact that I, the author,
wanted them to. That story's characters and their capabilities were, of
course, overkill for such a down-to-earth setting as Jurassic Park. I
wrote it when I was 13 or 14, and now most of the more experienced authors
look down at such stories as pointless and self-fulfilling. BUT THE POINT
IS that from early on, I started learning the basics, the do's and don'ts
of storywriting. I thought, despite their obscene levels of power, the
pair were still interesting characters and made mistakes, such as accidentally
killing dinosaurs and damaging property and such.
If you think that's bad, the original draft of the NETTG
fanfic's first chapter included a debate between Sailor Pluto and Star
Trek's Q about destiny and the things that went wrong needing to be correctedin
fact, NETTG was actually designed as a sort of sequel series to my SI
precursor stories. Both SP and Q had their debates and fascinating characters
But then I looked at the wacked-out plotline that followed
and eventually decided that it would be so much better if I actually decided
to take it seriously and make it its own story. The Moonlight Atom Boy
became the Atomic Starlight Knight, Q made no apperances, and we added
some ArbyFish to the mix. My storymy magnum opus, the most serious work
I had ever managed to sit down and writewas still pretty dang warped
when all was said and done.
The only thing that really managed to keep it all together
were the characters that got made up. ASK was the first big anchor that
kept things running and interesting. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon was a
story about Love, Justice, and Triumphing over evil through sheer, unadulterated
naiivete! And here was this guy coming in just wanting to blow things
up. Kind of throws things out of whack, doesn't it?
For a time, NETTG was a story about ASK trying to find
a way back to himself. Gradually, as I became a better writer, Terra acquired
more personality, followed by the borrowed SM cast, and soon, even no-name
characters like Admiral StarKnight's Tactical and Communications Officers
started to become a bit more endearing. Slowly, the minor characters demanded
more and more screen time, and chapter size balloonedor exploded, ratherinto
mammoth proportions. Sailor Moon's evil General Jadeite had a personality
problem, changing the character entirely into a cute Guardian,
Sam Beckett had huge amounts of pointless action and dialogue, and Sailor
Stylin' got her own spinoff series.
You never know what "minor" characters may
turn into. Arby was a fun bit of extreme comic relief and insanity for
the first few chapters, and then becomes the main plot device for the
season-ender battle in chapter ten. He later went on to become a system
admin for the Yggdrassil universe-controlling computer, installing Windows
on the main server and crashing the whole thingand he insists
that it was a perfectly proper thing to do. I mean, in chapter seven,
there's this guy from the Silver Millennium who knows where all the secret
ancient magical weapons' caches are, and insists on continuing only to
sell formal wear despite all of that. In the storyline arc that takes
place in the past, Terrifying gets a pair of doting servants called Huggyn
and Kyssin that are loyal to her and among her only friends. And Lord
Giles TranquilityQueen Serenity's husband in NETTGshows up at a random
moment unannounced to save the day just because it needed to be saved!
I've often thought: "Hmm, I seem to have built up
a lot of extra unnecessary minor characters, haven't I?" And then
I reply, "Oh, gee, ya THINK?!" And yet, when I ask myself when
and how to get rid of them, my only options are to just plot it so they
don't show up anywhere, or to simply kill them off and be done with it.
Killing never worksI tried that with Arby, and he just kept writing
himself back in. Fiendish li'l bugger, that one. Never trust him with
So, charactersno matter how minoreventually expand
and become major characters. You make 'em, and then you want to keep them.
You can't get rid of them so easily once they're made, so each character
creation has to be taken with thoughtfulness and consideration. Otherwise,
like a bunch of overgrown barnacles, they'll slow your progress down and
eventually be a pain to scrape off.
you can't have a cohesive story without all
the minor characters. Take
the old Legend of Zelda cartoons,
for example. Probably few of us remember it, but there were no real minor
repeating characters. There was Zelda, Link, Ganon, and the Fairy. No
peasants to defend, no enemy generals, and no point to it except to keep
the big G from getting the Triforce of Wisdom. I thought it was fun at
the time, but then again
Super Mario Brothers was a pretty nifty new
game back then, too.
All characters evolve if the writer's worth anything.
Everybody learns, grows, and changes. The starting point will count for
a lot, but it's what happens afterwards that determines what they become.
In the NETTG comic, we've already seen the introduction
of several new charactersthe elder Sailor Senshi and Captain Laios of
the Royal Lunar Guard, to name a few. I have an idea of where they'll
all end up, but I don't know what will happen in the meantime that will
change them along the way. They could become important mainstay characters,
or they could fade into the background and just sort of be there (anyone
remember Morn from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine?).
Now that this article draws to a close, I realize that
while I've said so much, I've really said so little. Minor characters
are hideously important to creating a fun, believable storyline, but it
is possible to get carried away with them. I'm still getting carried away
with them, and I love it. There may be nothing at all wrong with overusing
minor characters, since in the end, they become major characters worthy
of their own spinoff. Look at what comics and fan fiction did for Bobba
Fett and Wedge Antilles! Nothing really wrong with themI'd even venture
to say they got kind of carried awayBUT THEY'RE FUN, DON'T'CHA GET IT?!
Finally, minor characters are probably easier to get
away with in a visual medium rather than in a written one. It's one thing
to draw a character in the background all the time, but it's quite another
to keep mentioning their presence in every other paragraph. Therefore,
the NETTG comic will likely have many more original characters or extrapolations
(I.E. parents of character "x") than in the fanfic. This is
only natural and nothing to be ashamed of because, like manure, they'll
lead to a richer, more fertile creative soil. And that's the way it goes,
and we like it!
Now, as a bonus, here's some concept sketches of the
page we were supposed to have done on Tuesday:
Keep at it! Success is inevitable if efforts do not cease.