Hello, and welcome to Character Creation 101! I haven’t worked out our syllabus yet, so bear with me. It’ll take some time to work out what we’re going to do in here.
Or… maybe we could just take it one character at a time.
Yeah, let’s do that.
Today, we’ve come to the final week in exploring various character types and traits, delving into how to write them well, no matter the story you’re working on. After all, characters are some of the most important parts of writing, whether you’re writing novels, novellas, or even short stories. If the characters are awful, no amount of amazing story will help you. Trust me on that.
I want to encourage you to go back and read the rest of the series as well, discovering protagonists, antagonists, sidekicks, dead men walking, lovers, silent types, hobbits, and memorable minor characters—and today, I have one last character type to discuss with you.
Who are they, I’m sure you’re wondering. Well, the one-off is the minor character who’s here for only a minute, who propels the story forward in a single instant, and who we never see again and never think of again. They’re similar to the memorable minor character, except that in this case, they’re so small that we probably wouldn’t even bother to give them a name or a backstory at all. That’s how small they are.
How to write a forgettable character
You might think writing a one-off is the easiest of all, when it comes to character writing, but you’d be wrong. Even a character as small as this takes a lot of consideration and effort, in order to get them right and make the story work exactly the way you want it to. You can’t afford to stop trying when it comes to the one-off. No, they need attention too—even if it is a smaller amount.
Use Your Protagonist
Why? Because they’re probably the one who’s going to be interacting with your one-off. More than likely, it is. After all, they’re the main character and the one most likely to talk to anyone else at all ever, aren’t they? So use your protagonist to determine what kind of one-off they would respond best to, given the circumstances. If you need someone to annoy, then design your one-off to annoy your protagonist to the extreme. If you need a character who gives your protagonist the feels, then make sure your one-off is exactly the type of person to do it. This is the kind of thinking that goes into a character this small.
Use Your Head… But Not Too Much
Like every other character in your book, I want to make sure that you’ve put enough thought into them. But unlike the others, I want to make sure that you don’t think too hard about your one-off. They play a role, yes, they’re important, yes, but they’re not so important that you should spend hours and hours thinking of how to perfectly craft them. The one-off should be an intentional character, yes, but they should not be the type of character anyone wants to know more about, at any given time down the road. They’re only here to play their tiny little role, whatever that may be. Don’t let them get bigger than that unless they have to.
They’re a character that you’ll think about for two seconds or no more than twenty minutes, and then never think about again. Which is exactly what will happen in the minds of your readers, as well.
Thank you all so much for joining me through this series! I’ve had a lot of fun exploring characters with you. For the next two months, I hope you’ll enjoy the writings and ramblings of my lovely friend and wonderful associate editor, Tammy!
Associate Editor, etc.