Two weeks ago I went to a motivational conference in Atlanta. What I saw in the people around me and the speakers themselves really taught me about writing/creating stories. Last week we talked about using our characters in a way that contributes to the story as a whole, as opposed to contradicting each other.
This week we're going to talk about unforgettable characters.
There really isn't a rule to how to do this because character connection is so subjective to a reader. But I do think there should be no wasted space, no lazy dialogue, no pointless commentary. Every line, every word, must be intentional. This is something I'm really working on, because there are places in my book where dialogue is weak.
There was a GREAT example of this at the conference.
In the middle of the day, there were two separate sessions that were basically infomercials. When they announced the speakers, we turned and looked at each other, asking "Who?" They weren't the people on the billboard. When the second one was announced, I leaned over and asked a friend, "I wonder how the 'no-names' feel whenever they are announced and the audience barely claps?"
Before she could laugh, the speaker bounded out and said, "Don't worry looking for me in the book, Ladies and Gentlemen. I'm not important enough to be in it". (Or something like that). For the next 45 minutes, he made us laugh like crazy. He'd say something totally ludicrous and say, "Just wait. It gets worse." And then said something even funnier.
His subject matter dealt with making money through real estate (we suspect the two infomercials funded the entire conference), something I know nothing about. But I listened for the entire time. He was literally the highlight of my day, my favorite part about the entire conference. Why?
He spoke from the heart.
He made me laugh.
He spoke the truth. In fact, he spoke life. Though in a secular setting, he quoted the Bible. He even pronounced a blessing over the audience- even though most of them never noticed it.
This minor character none of us had ever heard of completely stole the show. By the end of his talk, I was ready to buy his book just because I wanted to hear his voice again.
He was unforgettable.
I walked away thinking about the minor characters in my stories and how important they are for adding... well, character. That extra touch, the accent, that takes the story beyond mundane.
While they might not have the spotlight like our primary characters, they can make the difference between losing an audience and taking them captive. However, as Jody and Jennifer pointed out in the comments below, it's important that our minor characters do not completely steal the show from the primary ones. If they do, there's a problem. I left the conference that day talking about one guy-James Smith. And his presentation had very little to do with the point of the conference. It was a supporting role.
For minor characters, it's important to remember what Brad Pitt's character said to Matt Damon's in Ocean's Eleven: "Be memorable, but not too memorable." In other words: don't completely steal the show. Just enhance it by doing your part well.
See y'all next week!
4 hours ago