Dreame Writing Academy: Two Methods to Create an Impressive Supporting Character

Ace Author Club
4 min readFeb 2, 2021

It is widely understood that the main characters are the core of any story. The protagonist is the most important person/being and all other characters ultimately exist in relation to the protagonist. That said, one of the best ways to enhance the main character is to properly shape the supporting roles. This article will therefore emphasize the significance of the supporting roles and explain how to make them as effective as possible.

If one considers a typical Hero’s Journey, he or she cannot obtain the gift of the Gods without any tasks or trials. When the hero or heroine faces a challenge, the challenge might come from an enemy, which is a supporting role. To pass the test, the hero often needs mentors and allies to help, who are also in supporting roles. This concept indicates the importance of these characters.

Via Wikipedia

The functions of supporting roles can be considered in two aspects. Firstly, supporting roles can serve to highlight certain things about the main character. For example, if a supporting role has the same goal as the protagonist, the supporting role quit halfway while the protagonist overcomes multiple challenges to finally achieve the goal. With a supporting role like this, the main character’s perseverance is more easily recognized by the reader. Secondly, supporting roles can assume responsibility for pushing the plot forward or providing clues for the story. These roles can appear in the whole story or just key plots and generally they drive the protagonist to keep growing, for example Dumbledore in Harry Potter.

Before you create a supporting role, you should ask yourself three questions:

1) Why does this character appear?

2) What is the character’s mission in the story?

3) If you removed the character completely, would it have a great impact on the plot?

By answering these questions, you can establish the general position of the character in your story.

Compared with descriptions of main characters, the word count for supporting roles is limited. When writers create a supporting role, they might consider this role from three basic dimensions: Physiology, Sociology, and Psychology. Then, the writer should decide on the distinguishing features of the character in the three areas mentioned above, to make the role more vivid. Meanwhile, planning a relationship between the supporting role and the leading roles helps to make the character more embedded in the story.

Refer to the Dremae Writing Courses, let me explain this profound topic in simple language.

1.Creating the distinguishing feature

As discussed, supporting characters do not feature as prominently as main characters so the writer is forced to develop them with a limited number of words. In this situation, the character’s personality can be developed through their behavior and language. Habitual behavior, eccentricities, or regularly used phrases can serve to endear a character to readers. These small details can also reinforce the reader’s impression of a character.

For example, if you want to create a supporting character who is rich but arrogant, when this rich man talks to the main character he might not keep eye contact with the hero and use overbearing words. In this way, you can show the man’s distinguishing feature effectively.

2. Building a relationship between the supporting role and the leading roles

There are two general kinds of relationships: friendly and hostile. In a friendly relationship the supporting role’s responsibility is a kind elder, a mentor, or a friend, someone that can always lend a helping hand to our hero or heroine.

By contrast, in a hostile relationship, the supporting character acts as an antagonist. They can be the main character’s worst enemy, someone who betrays the protagonist and gets them into trouble, or a more clownish, comic character who causes problems for the leading roles.

Here we can provide an example from one of the most famous novels, Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling. In this story, Peter Pettigrew betrays the Potters, while Voldemort is the antagonist, the most powerful enemy that Harry will face. The Dursleys fit the somewhat comic role as through their mistreatment of Harry they are punished in a dramatic and amusing way.

“Do not ignore supporting roles.” Every experienced editor and successful author will surely agree with this statement. Different authors will have different methods to create the supporting roles and this process is part of what makes every story unique. But the mature authors’ common ground is that they keep the design process logical and always think of the characters as real people. Before the book is published you never know which character will be the readers’ favorite, so a mature writer designs all the characters with care and deliberation. As a reader, we are lucky to experience the story from multiple angles and viewpoints.

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