I love my minor characters. In general, since they don’t serve to advance the plot, the “experts” suggest not spending as much virtual ink on them as I do. But to me the add color, interest, depth, and amusement. In a novel like Avalon, S.C.—or truthfully, anything that I’ve written—those things are every bit as important as the plot.
Just to make sure we’re using a common language, I’m going to offer these working definitions:
SUPPORTING CHARACTER: Not as well developed or as significant as a main character, but generally they hang around longer and help advance the plot. If the novel is turned into a movie, the actor playing the role would be considered for an Oscar for best supporting actor. Adeline is a supporting character, the only one so far (hmm. Who would play Adeline in the movie version of Avalon, S.C.?).
MINOR CHARACTER: They have a real personality, albeit even less well developed. May only appear in one scene, as long as they play a significant role in that scene. In your book group, you could answer some questions about what they’re like, what their hopes and dreams are, as well as their foibles.
EXTRA: Strictly paid by the hour, no credits. You can speculate what they’re like but the evidence is sparse.
Sabrina started out as a minor character, auditioned very well with her relentless wit, and immediately demanded (and got) an elevation to Supporting Character. So do you think she will be satisfied with that position? I don’t know; she seems pretty strong-willed.
Sheriff Tate is a more typical Minor Character. I could easily have made him into the stereotypical Southern Sheriff, but didn’t think that would be particularly interesting. You don’t know what his family is like, how close to retirement he is, anything like that. But you do appreciate that he’s business-like yet warm instead of blustery. Plus I like it that you know what his hands are like.
Tomorrow you’ll meet a new Minor Character, Jerome Collins, proprietor of the Low Country Gallery. He’s one of my favorite Minor Characters ever. Auditioned very well, but unfortunately, there was absolutely no supporting role available for him. The experts—the same ones that suggest not spending too many words on minor characters—caution you not to have too many Main and Supporting Characters (and on this, I agree with them). Plus it would have been difficult for me to create a larger, ongoing role for him. But I confess that I thought about it.
[Amos] Carter—he with the plethora of potential names that you provided, excitedly awaiting my decision for what he is going to be called the rest of his life (as well as what he was called in the past. The author has SO much power. His mother wanted to name him Amos, but Hah! We know better!)—is a Minor Character. Maybe. He plays a fairly large role in the novel, and you know quite a bit about his history, as well as his hopes and dreams. In the movies he would definitely become a Supporting Character, probably played by Morgan Freeman who at a minimum would be nominated for an Oscar for his performance.
SO, the question remains: are the minor characters round enough? Too much? Worth the words I’ve committed to them? For now, I’m going to ignore the experts and press on.