Writing Techniques: How to create minor characters
September 12, 2015
I find character creation one to be of the hardest parts of writing and I don't have a very visual mind, so one of the worst moments in writing for me is when I need to introduce a minor character or write a crowd scene, and I realise I have to stop and make this huge effort of imagination to think up some character and give them individuated characteristics, even though they're only going to be in the book for one scene.
I use this technique to help with that moment, but of course this technique can also be used to create more major characters as well.
Creating minor or background characters
Find an image bank of pictures of people. This could be: a book of photographic portraits, a street fashion blog, a book of portrait paintings, or some other reference.
Set aside some dedicated time, and go through your image bank. For each character, write a sentence or two describing them. Try to make your sentence as individuated as possible, and focus on unique or identifying characteristics.
If anything else occurs to you about the image that is purely your invention, an idea about the character's feelings or life or background, you can include that too.
If there are images that you are particularly drawn to, spend a little more time with them, they might end up being visual references for characters with a larger role in your work.
Keep your written mini-bios in one place, like a dedicated journal or a single electronic file. You now have a written "character bank" that you can draw on whenever you need to during the course of your novel. Any time you need a description, you have one. Voila!
You can find a complete list of the writing techniques covered in the series at the Writing Techniques Master Post