Major Supporting Characters
Sometimes these characters will be in every chapter, having long dialogues with main characters, interacting with other minor characters themselves, or just being present in case the need for them arises.
These are your major supporting characters. Your reader will get to know them, although not as well as your main characters. They’ll have to have some kind of brief history themselves, as well as motivations, thoughts, and feelings.
Minor Supporting Characters
Sometimes these characters will appear only once in a whole book, perhaps a storekeeper or guard. They might only utter one line of dialogue, or none at all. These characters are usually only needed to perform one or two simple functions to move the story forward, and then they are gone.
These are your minor supporting characters. Not much planning goes into these folks, and they’ll often spring up on their own as you write a fantasy novel. Planning for each one of these characters in the outline stage of your novel is impractical, if not impossible. Part of the creative process is not knowing everything, and that’s when minor supporting characters are needed the most.
Creating Supporting Characters
I’ve already outlined the main characters in my fantasy novel, although I’ve only done so in the West. That leaves one whole part of the country that I’ve got to deal with, the East.
But do I want to deal with that? I’ve got a good basis for a story already, most of which will take place in the West. Do I need to introduce any characters at all from the East in the first novel, or can I wait until other novels in the series? I’m already realizing that one novel will take place solely in the West, another in the East, and then the final in both together.
Still, references will be made to characters in the East in the first novel; they have to be. My main characters in the West are not completely ignorant of the goings on, the personas, and the politics of the East, after all. They’ll know the big names, so I’ve got to know them as well. That’s why it’s good to get those supporting characters down now, especially if you want to know how to write a fantasy novel that can be turned into a series.
Let’s look at my major supporting characters in the East, which will in turn become main characters in another novel.
At this point I’m still not clear on what title I’ll give to the ruler in the East. It could be king, emperor, or president. It could even be something off the wall and which I haven’t thought of. How about a group of rulers, or a council? Perhaps two rival groups have come together to form a coalition government. It’s hard to say, but it’s still pretty clear one person will be considered the main leader or boss.
This person will have to appear to care about the people in the West, although I don’t think he really will. He’ll have to do that to curry favor with the people in the East who support the Visa System, but he’ll also have to appear a bit disdainful of it as well to appease those who hate the Visa System. It’s really a fine line, and his true motivations probably aren’t known to those in the West, or many in the East. They remain unknown to me at this time as well.
Just like there’s a general in the West who is in charge of all things military, so to will there be one in the East. But whereas the general in the West can often sit back, not having to worry about anything but the Visa fights once a year, the general in the East will always have to be on his guard. Visa stragglers could be crossing over the Wo’dan Desert at any time, and it’s still not unheard of to see others making it through the Swamps of Miletus.
This man will no doubt be hard, uncompromising, and perhaps angry. He could do a better job running the country than the current ruler, and it’s not been unheard of for a military leader to take the top spot in the East. Things have been going south in the East, at least that’s the way this character sees it, and they mean to do something about it. This would be a very good female character.
The Visa Shepherds are those that ferry the lucky ones from the West to their new homes in the East. Each year they come to the West when the Visa Lottery takes place, and their job is only getting more dangerous. Lately a mob mentality has grown up around Drubeck each time the lottery draws near, and last year a whole ship of Visa recipients almost were killed when the mob tried to capsize their boat.
An attitude is growing up that says, ‘if we can’t go, no one can go.’ As far as the Visa Shepherds see it, there’s really a sense of desperation taking hold that hasn’t been evident in years past. There will be one Visa Shepherd that is a major supporting character, and I have a feeling he’s questioning the whole system, perhaps for the first time in his long career.
There has to one major supporting character in the East that is trying to rile things up. In the West this is the Preacher. He’s agitating for change, although no one pays him much heed. In the East this character will have a much more prominent position in the government, perhaps in that country’s version of the Senate or other governing body.
He views the Visa System as the one great evil in the land, one that has to be stopped. Not only is it holding down the West, but it’s holding back the East. If the two countries could just integrate and work together, both would be so much better off.
Of course no one wants to hear this. The whole economy and way of life in the East has come about from their policies concerning the West. Most don’t think they’d be much better of than the West if they hadn’t started limiting those from the West generations ago.
But some people are listening, and a small group of followers are beginning to rally around the Instigator’s words. This could spell trouble for him.
Those are just a few of the major supporting characters from the East that will be mentioned, or perhaps even highlighted in one or two chapters, when I begin figuring out how to write a fantasy novel with this outline.
I’d suggest if you’re struggling with how to write a fantasy novel, you too sit down with your map and figure out which characters are needed where, and to what extent. It’s much better than suddenly finding yourself in need of a major secondary character that could last through the whole book, and making them up on the fly. This will only hurt your story, so plan just a little, or a whole lot.