Dear Reader Who Writes,
As you will doubtless now be aware you are being addressed here by none other that the most highly esteemed author of that now classic masterpiece of the speculative fiction genre “Fatswhistle and Buchtooth”, Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV. To friends, one is known as ‘IVy’ (a hangover from one’s days at at exclusive boarding school when puns on names were all the rage). To the maternal parent, it is ‘Moons’ (her idea of an affectionate abbreviation – or so she has oft times declared). But you, dear Reader who Writes, can use ‘Sir’ as befits our relationship status as pupil and pedagogue and I will refer to you as ‘RWW’.
There, formalities concluded let me explain a little in advance of today’s lesson, not too much, of course as your eager, if limited, spongesque cranial contents must not be over-challenged. Today’s lesson took form in my mind after I shared lunch with Mummy in the area of the kitchen we refer to as ‘the dining room’. It is a table squeezed into the bijou space left where the Aga used to live, before Mumsie declaimed one morning: “Stuff that sodding status symbol – I’m getting a proper cooker!” And in the same sweeping change, reverted our previous refectory to become her personal boudoir – or as she calls it her ‘withdrawing room’ – whilst establishing our current dining arrangements.
But I digress. We had just partaken of the midday meal, when Mummy burped gently and leaned across the table towards me. I was about to comment on the interesting new cologne she was sporting, when I noticed the gin bottle beside her place setting.
“Moons,” she slurred, “Do you ever feel like you are a walk-on extra in someone else’s life and not a proper person at all?”
It was, of course, a trick question as the moisture in her eyes – no doubt from suppressed laughter – betrayed. I can’t recall my exact witty and dismissive response but I do remember Mumsie rapidly withdrawing from the room right after and locking herself in her withdrawing room, not to emerge for two days.
So yes, today’s lesson:
How To Write A Book – Lesson 17: The Write Supporting Cast.
We have, you will recall, already considered the best way to create the main characters in your stories, but now it is time to contemplate the little people. Those characters who appear for a paragraph or maybe a chapter, or step onto the stage now and then but are most often to be found off-stage, in the green room flipping coins with their fellows.
Such characters, you are thinking are you not my predictable pupil, are hardly worth investing the time in. They are a face in the crowd, a name on a list, a mere mention in passing. Wrong, I respond in this hypothetical conversation. Wrong and wrong again! These are not the non-entities you assume. No, each is an individual striving for their own aims and deserves to be treated as such!
So do not stint on your duty to these characters, give them as much attention to detail as you do to your precious protagonist. Let each have a history and a place in your world. When a new supporting star or starlet walks into your prose, meet them and greet them, sit down and have a cup of tea with them, listen to their dreams and pay heed to their nightmares. Be as their recording angel and capture their souls with the written word. Let them live!
And with that thought, à bientôt mes élèves!