We have author Phillipa Nefri Clark sharing with us The importance of comic relief and minor characters. She has a new book out, Jasmine Sea: A River's End Love Story, Book 2. And there are signed book giveaways!
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We all love writing our main characters, watching them develop as we flesh them out and make their world shine. They are our focus, the ones we cry over and laugh with. Without heroes and heroines, we’d have no story.
Secondary characters are every bit as important. Some may only appear briefly, whilst others are there all along in the background. Why do we need them? Isn’t the story of the protagonist and antagonist enough?
In the movie Cast Away, Chuck Noland is marooned alone on a remote island. His emotional ride as he fights to survive is offset by his comic relief character - a volleyball he names Wilson. Wilson provides a means to show what’s going with Chuck in an entertaining, sometimes subtle, and occasionally touching way.
How does a comic relief character benefit a story? In The Stationmaster’s Cottage, I introduced minor characters Daphne (a warm-hearted, small-town gossip), Belinda (works for her mother in a bakery not knowing what she wants in life), and Randall, the golden retriever owned by my protagonist’s love interest.
Daphne provides useful information Christie would not otherwise be privy to in an organic fashion. She is also there at the right moments to tell Christie how welcome she is in town, which creates emotional conflict for Christie. Naïve in a sweet way, Daphne drops red herrings into the story with no thought to the outcome.
Belinda’s little sister, Jess, needs help which Christie willingly gives. All three benefit and the reader discovers how generous and kind Christie is by her actions. Belinda offers humour in moments otherwise tense, and reminds Christie of herself at that age, but without the hang-ups.
Randall is the bridge between Christie and Martin. The reclusive artist has little time for the city girl (as he calls her), but his dog adores her, and that means a lot to Martin.
Each of the minor characters serve a major purpose. They either organically offer information which otherwise might have been ‘told’, provide distraction, change the tone of a scene, or introduce elements to enhance the story of the main character.
These characters offer their own very real challenges to get right. Not only does each have a unique voice, but complex backgrounds. They must be used to move the story forward, yet not make the story about themselves.
When I decided to write Jasmine Sea as a sequel, it was my minor and comic relief characters I revisited first. Did they still have something interesting to say? Had I left enough unfinished business to continue their stories? I was excited to find out there was plenty more they had to say!
In Jasmine Sea, Daphne returns in a larger role. Her marriage and home are put under pressure, which allows her to become part of an emotional side story. Belinda is mostly away following her own dreams now but appears when Christie needs her to move things along.
Randall, the much loved canine, steps into a central role. This is designed to optimise the suspense, increase the emotion, and put the reader on the edge of their seats toward the end. By doing so, the humans who love him in the story make decisions and take risks pushing them into unchartered territory.
What techniques do you use to bring your minor characters to life? Do you have a favourite comic relief in one of your own novels? Is there a writer you think does this particularly well?
Jasmine Sea: A River's End Love Story. Book Two
Sometimes facing the past is the only way forward.
Starting over never felt better. Christie Ryan adores the little cottage she’s renovating, the seaside town that embraced her, and Martin Blake, the man she longs to marry. Ex-fiancé Derek Hobbs is finally out of the picture, and there are no more secrets in her life or mysteries to solve.
Will the arrival of a mysterious woman who commissions a portrait from Martin under a cloud of secrecy break her after all? Unrest and suspicion remind Christie that happiness can be fleeting, and when the peaceful town is shattered by crime, her past is again thrust into the limelight.
With one chance and only minutes to save those she loves, Christie comes face to face with her greatest fear—and there is no way around it.
Jasmine Sea follows on from The Stationmaster's Cottage, set shortly after its stunning conclusion.
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