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Supporting characters (1 Viewer)

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Phoenix Raven

Senior Member
I had a question about supporting or secondary characters.

In my story the protagonist travels with four others. While I do have my protagonist as the main focus of my story, there are times when I want to focus on the supporting characters. Giving them greater depth and making them three dimensional.

My question: Is it wrong to describe a supporting character's thoughts and feelings in prose to the reader?

I know it may be a stupid question, but I really don't know if it's considered bad story telling to shot the inner thoughts of supporting characters. I don't want the reader to be confused with who the protagonist is.
 

Gavrushka

WF Veterans
Absolutely not! Describe away! - Your reader will be better served if he/she can develop empathy with all your characters. - This will increase both enjoyment for the reader, and scope for the writer. - IF you give equal emphasis to multiple characters, there may be some confusion as to who the main protagonist is, but how that would be a bad thing is not immediately apparent. The skill of the writer will keep the reader entertained, even whilst the writer is juggling like fury. - How hard it was for you to balance everything will be lost to the reader if you do it well.

Perhaps it would help to post an excerpt you may be concerned about, and I am sure a few here will offer their thoughts.
 

Phoenix Raven

Senior Member
Absolutely not! Describe away! - Your reader will be better served if he/she can develop empathy with all your characters. - This will increase both enjoyment for the reader, and scope for the writer. - IF you give equal emphasis to multiple characters, there may be some confusion as to who the main protagonist is, but how that would be a bad thing is not immediately apparent. The skill of the writer will keep the reader entertained, even whilst the writer is juggling like fury. - How hard it was for you to balance everything will be lost to the reader if you do it well.

Perhaps it would help to post an excerpt you may be concerned about, and I am sure a few here will offer their thoughts.

Thank you Gavrushka. I don't think I have earned the right to post any excerpt in the forum yet, and don't want to break the rules or step on toes. I'm more then happy just getting advice for now. Your reply has helped ease my fears about describing my secondary characters thoughts.
 

Gavrushka

WF Veterans
Phoenix, you'd not break any rules by posting an excerpt of your work. - It often helps the one offering the critique as much as the one receiving it.

I do understand it can take a while to feel ready to post, however. - It scared the pants of me the first time I did... Not a pleasant piece of imagery! :p
 

Folcro

Creative Area Specialist (Fiction)
WF Veterans
Read the first ten pages of Frank Herbert's Dune--- one of the most successful sci-fi/fantasy novels on the market--- and you will see how there is nothing wrong with jumping into the perspective and word-for-word thought of minor characters, even the villain (he even at times jumps from mind to mind in the same scene).
 

Riptide

WF Veterans
Hey, right when I hit those ten post I was posting like mad! OKay, not completely like a lunatic, I held some sanity, but don't be nervous or scared. I always find my worse mistakes right after I click post, so it's a great motivator to edit real quickly
 

Jeko

WF Veterans
My question: Is it wrong to describe a supporting character's thoughts and feelings in prose to the reader?

Depends on the narrative perspective you're using. If your narrator is external to the story and you want him/her to feel human, he/her can't be a mind reader.

I believe one of the favored styles among many authors is something called 'free indirect style', where the narrator is capable of floating into any of the character's heads and so leaves out 'he thought' and the like. If you can keep this narrator invisible, you can make the characters visible in many more dimensions.
 

Bishop

WF Veterans
If there is something wrong with it, then I'm writing wrong!

Seriously, though, I actually shift from one to the next. I kind of think of it like camera angles in a scene, shifting when necessary to get a different perspective. It can also build suspense, when the protagonist doesn't know something that someone else does, letting the reader know that can make them tense about when or how the protagonist will find out, and what the consequences of not knowing are.

Bishop
 

thepancreas11

New Writers' Mentor
WF Veterans
Obviously, if you're writing in the first person, no. If the story strictly follows one character, no. If it's anything else, yes.

A narrator is like a psychic objective observer.
 
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