via Kim Katrin Crosby
Keynote Speaker for LGBTQ History Month at Dartmouth, on September 30, 2013
Hey Writing Habits, do you have any tips or links for writing side characters? Keeping the little guys as interesting as the big ones, as it were?
Your side characters have their own backgrounds. Fleshing those out will help you a lot in figuring out what they can do and when. Even if you end up with thirty pages of notes that will never see the light of day - or more! - getting to know them will help you a lot in making them interesting.
Your side characters are not aware they are side characters. Everybody else is starring in their story. They’re not going to drop everything just to be there in time to provide a key plot point or helpful hint. They have to behave naturally, and within their own interests.
What we don’t know can be just as interesting as what we do. Having some mysteries remain about your side characters can make them just as memorable as the main ones. Why didn’t Shelly cry at her mom’s funeral? Why was the secretary willing to risk her job to help the detective? Hinting at their motives - or leaving characters wondering at them - can help make them more real.
That said, giving them motives is super important. Shortcuts and stock characters leave much to be desired. As a writer, you can do better than that. The girl who gets with the guy at the end is just that, a stock character. The girl who gets with the guy at the end because they really like each other or because of Some Other Reason just got more interesting.
Hope these help!
voicesofreasons said: Hey I wanted to know if you had any in depth or helpful information about writing a soulmate au?
Sure! I’ve actually had a lot of thoughts about soulmates recently, so this is a good opportunity. My basic feeling about soulmate stories is that they shouldn’t be as light, fluffy, and easy as they often are. The first reason is because conflict generates interest (which is why true utopias are so boring to read about) and the second reason is because life is hard. So here are some tips…
- Do not stop their development as a couple. Their time together will change the nature of their relationship. Put the realization towards the beginning or middle of the story so you can explore how being together causes them to see the world differently.
- Open the attachment to other forms of love. For example, squishes and friendship. Also make the attachment open to more than two individuals in the case of polyamory or a group of really close friends or something.
- Let the couple have differences. It seems that a lot of soulmate couples just click within their first few dates and it’s all sunshine and rainbows from thereon out. You can still fight with someone and love them. You can have long-standing disagreements with someone (and not just those cutesy disagreements like who saw who first) and still love them. I know a couple that can’t stand each other during election season. After the election is over, they get back together like nothing happened. Even though they’re on different sides of the political spectrum, their love and mutual interests on other issues overcomes politics.
- Don’t cure things with soulmates. Finding your soulmate should not cure things like addiction, self destructive behavior, or mental illness. It should not instantly iron out personality flaws. While a soulmate can be part of the healing process, they should not be the sole cause of their partner’s recovery.
- Let people have relationships outside their soulmates. People don’t need to wait until they meet their soulmate to have meaningful relationships or do things you’re supposed to “save until marriage”. Even in a soulmate world, you should be able to go on dates with non-soulmates and have one night stands with other people. At the very least, I’m sure people want to figure out this dating nonsense before they try anything with their soulmate.
- What about missing soulmates? Your soulmate could die young, fall in love with someone else, or seem utterly disappointing. Your soulmate could be a farmer in the American Midwest while you are a herder in rural Mongolia. Your soulmate could have been born in the 1800s. You could give up waiting for your soulmate and choose someone else who you are still really happy with.
- Finally. I’ve noticed that a lot of soulmate AU ideas on Tumblr involve your soulmate’s name somewhere on your body or a clock on your wrist counting down the minutes until you met them or some other clue as to when you will meet The One. Break that system.