Little Details that Make a Big Difference when it comes to Minor Characters

 July 27, 2016


“What’s the deal between Sara and her mother-in-law? She appears to be a little snot, which has certainly not been the case in the previous book.” One Beta reader commented.

I certainly didn’t want one of my major characters coming off like a snot, but I also didn’t want to spend too much time developing the character of her mother-in-law in this book. What to do?

One of the realities of writing a series is that with every new book you add more characters which means more complexity. It can get overwhelming pretty fast if you don’t control it. Fortunately it’s not that hard to take care of this. I’m always amazed at what a few well-placed details can do to flesh out a character or enliven a story.

In the case of Sara’s mother-in-law, I just added an interaction between Sara and her husband:

“Your mom is . . . overwhelming,” Sara had said when they had first discussed the possibility of her help.

“Go ahead and say it. Mom can be overbearing,” Larry agreed.

“I mean, she rearranged the kitchen when she came to visit and then proceeded to our bedroom.”

“I know. It’s her way of showing love, helping out. Give it time. You’ll learn how to deal with her.” Sara doubted that but held her tongue.

And then a small interaction between Sara and her mother-in-law.

As Larry’s parents left, Clara hugged Sara and said, “By the way, I made a few changes to the nursery. You’re going to love them.”

Nothing more needs to be said. It’s eminently clear why Sara has a problem with her mother-in-law. I don’t have to belabor the point. All it took were a few details, mentioning how she took it upon herself to rearrange rooms in their home. I don’t have to explain (or show) why Clara does this as I might if I decide to develop her character more in another book.

What about you? How do you bring your minor characters to life without having to spend more words than you want?



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