If you are struggling to develop a strong cast of characters for your story, you are not alone. Many resources aid authors by creating character questionnaires that help them understand their characters’ motivations and pasts. But before motives can be determined, characters must first exist.
So, how do you go about determining how many characters to include and why their existence is crucial to your story? The answers will be different for each story, but all characters need to fulfill certain roles to progress the plot. A lot of resources define character archetypes (such as the protagonist, antagonist, mentor, and sidekick), but fewer discuss how to successfully incorporate them into your story, which, for example, may call for several sidekicks.
Archetypes aside, if you struggle with developing a solid cast of characters, a lot of insight can be found by reviewing your own favorite books specifically for insights into how those authors’ characters impacted each other and the events surrounding their scenes. These roles may either lie in conveying logic, emotion, or both, but all must posit strong contributions or be eliminated.
Answering the following questions will provide you with insight into how other authors successfully incorporated archetypes into their stories, which may help you determine how to incorporate them into yours.
- How many characters are there?
- How and when are they introduced?
- What are their roles in the story?
- How do they impact each other and the main characters?
- Could any of them have been combined into one character and why?
- What makes each character an individual?
- When, if ever, do they leave the story?
- What did their departure accomplish?
- Which characters were tools that conveyed logic, emotion, or both?
- How did this help/hurt the main character?
Bonus tips that should always be considered:
- Make sure each character conveys emotion, logic, or both because, without these, you risk creating flat characters that should be eliminated.
- If two or more characters fail to stand out from each other, yet you need them both to exist, switch one of them from fulfilling, say, an emotional role to a logical role. Most likely, the reason they seem so similar is because they are filling the same void for the main character.