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Writing a good side character

A good side character plays an important role in a story as they can help to move the plot forward, provide comic relief, or add depth to the protagonist. Here are some detailed steps on how to write good side characters:

Determine the Role of the Side Character

Motivation and Goals: To truly understand your side character, delve into their motivations and goals. What drives them on a personal level? How do these motivations connect to the story’s central conflict or themes?

Character Arc: Besides considering the side character’s initial role, think about how their journey might evolve over the course of the story. Are they static, or will they experience growth, change, or even a transformation in response to the unfolding events?

Give them a Unique Personality

Character Traits: Go beyond listing personality traits; explore how these traits manifest in various situations. How do they react under pressure, in moments of joy, or when facing moral dilemmas?

Contradictions: Real people often contain contradictions. Consider the ways in which your side character’s traits may conflict or create inner tension. These contradictions can be a source of depth and intrigue.

Create a Backstory for the Side Character

Defining Moments: Uncover vital defining moments in the side character’s past. These events could include triumphs, tragedies, or pivotal choices. Understanding these moments provides insight into their present behaviour.

Impactful Relationships: Explore past relationships, not just with family but also with friends, mentors, or adversaries. Consider how these relationships have influenced the side character’s beliefs, values, and outlook on life.

Use the Side Character to Reveal Information

Narrative Dynamics: Beyond conveying information, think about how the side character’s presence affects the narrative dynamics. Are they a catalyst for change, a source of tension, or a mentor who imparts wisdom?

Symbolism and Foreshadowing: Use the side character symbolically to foreshadow events or represent thematic elements. Their actions, words, or even physical traits can carry more profound meanings.

Develop Relationships Between the Side Character and the Protagonist

Complex Dynamics: Embrace the complexity of relationships. Not all interactions between the side character and the protagonist need to be harmonious. Conflicts, disagreements, and misunderstandings can lead to character growth.

Evolution of Bonds: Map out how the relationship between the side character and the protagonist evolves over time. What challenges do they face together, and how do these shared experiences affect their connection?

Make the them relevant to the Plot

Parallel Storylines: Consider giving the side characters their own subplots or storylines that intertwine with the main plot. These parallel narratives can offer unique perspectives and enrich the overall story.

Critical Choices: Ensure that the side character’s decisions and actions have consequences within the story. Their choices should impact the plot in significant ways, creating a sense of causality.

Consider the Impact of the Side Character

Emotional Impact: Evaluate how the side character evokes emotions in both readers and other characters. Do they elicit sympathy, admiration, or even disdain? Their emotional resonance can shape the story’s tone and themes.

Change Agents: Explore how the side character’s presence disrupts the status quo. What shifts occur in the story’s trajectory, character dynamics, or thematic exploration as a result of their involvement?

Avoid Stereotypes

Depth Through Flaws: Challenge stereotypes by giving your side character flaws and vulnerabilities. These imperfections make them more relatable and believable. Their flaws can also serve as sources of character development.

Nuanced Perspectives: Craft side characters with nuanced perspectives on their identity, culture, or background. Avoid one-dimensional portrayals by acknowledging the complexities and individuality of their experiences.

In summary, crafting multi-dimensional side characters involves a thorough exploration of their role, personality, backstory, narrative impact, relationships, relevance to the plot, emotional resonance, and a commitment to defying stereotypes. These elements work together to create characters that not only enhance the narrative but also resonate with readers on a profound level, making them an integral part of the storytelling experience.

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Published inWriting tips


  1. Thank you so much for taking me back to my college days. I am an English lit grad and I am very happy to see that you’ve provided an in-depth guide on writing a side character for the story. Awesome read!

  2. Olga Olga

    I started my blog one year ago, and a month ago, I realized I want to take some writing classes. I read your website from time to time and always find useful tips.

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