Minor Characters In My Fiction



I thought it might be amusing to incorporate a picure of me standing outside a shop in Taiwan because mere days before this picture was taken I was to be seen shopping at its brother store in Mansfield, England. Some might suggest that it's because I haven't got that many images of myself: I couldn't possibly comment. But I suppose that, besides people, places where I get some of my sustenance might be looked at, obscurely, as minor characters in my life. And what kind of devious supposition is that! But to find out more about me - not that you'd want to, brethren, though is that a gun I see to your heads? - click here.

Just as we all have acquaintances that act as minor characters in our lives, interacting with us only occasionally or over trivial matters, so a novel has its minor characters. Yet they’re not always as unimportant as they might at first appear to be. The author (in the case of the books mentioned on this page, me) introduces them for a reason. They’re more than mere speckly things that drift like falling snow across the pages of my creations.


Sometimes that importance is as great as that of the main characters. Take A Fall From Grace, for instance. You may not have read it (probably haven’t, so this is for you), the two children that open the book and subsequently close it contribute little to the development of characters or plot, but they act as a thread that binds all else together. We see Josie through their eyes at the very beginning. There is a great significance in this because the view of a person through the untarnished eyes of a child is more likely to be black or white and less likely to be a medley of shades of grey. So we see a one-dimensional Josie Larkin, and over the chapters that single dimension fills itself out until we (hopefully) get to like the youngster she was and sympathise with the sad old woman she becomes.


I suppose the five part epic The Jewels of Ooombis has nothing but minor characters in it, bar one enigma. In fact, the real characters are two jewelled ornaments and the humans who interact with them are merely a supporting cast of thousands down all the years of human history. Yet we do learn to briefly love Ingmar and Grobbim who set the ball rolling, or if not exactly love, sympathise with. I should imagine that, if stripped down to its simplest theme, the character that dominates is pure love gradually tarnished by successive generations, and the possibility that even love can learn enough to propose some kind of salvation when humanity falls to pieces. Those purists of science fiction who think that never love or the future should mix must accept my humble apologies because they do, in five inspiring volumes!


The same might be said of the inhabitants of The Crystal Forest. Once again the situation is dominant. The area covered by the book and the only area known by its inhabitants is a frozen wasteland dominated by unseen remnants from a more civilised past – Grocer providing essentials to the women and DEMON ordering cruel and unearned punishment for the boys. The two who eventually solve what amounts to a riddle and get away from an environment that is unsustainable are the major characters, but they are subservient to that environment. Their attempt at getting away is little more than undirected blundering.

I’ve written elsewhere about another branch of minor characters – obsessed and obsessive mothers. I suppose it’s because my mothers represent the antithesis of maternal love and care that they become strong and offer a counterbalance to my main characters.


Would Josie Larkin ever fallen in love with another woman had it not been for her man-hating harridan of a mother? (A Fall From Grace). Would Adrian Templeton ever have become a serial killer egged on by voices in his head if his mother hadn’t always dominated him and set about both scorning and trying to physically destroy his male sexuality? (Dead Lips, Kissing). And in The Gentleman of the Road, if his mother hadn’t been the drunken prostitute that she was, would Kevin Stonewell ever have run away from home, with such life-changing consequences?

It is those early influences that often determine who we’re going to become, and in fiction I guess that it’s fair game to exaggerate them!

And in A Fall from Grace the whole would have been an insignificant account of the aging process had it not been for Josie’s bullying neighbour and his ill-conceived attack on her.


From the sublime to the ridiculous: Spellbound. This story has a host of minor characters as Griselda Entwhistle seeks fames and political fortune: the childless and consequently constantly weeping Janine Stretchmark, the impassioned Constable Lockemup, even the nightmare family that lives next door to her. And, of course, her own alter egos as she learns the skills involved in personal transmogrification.

There are other characters that offer a much smaller role, yet are significant to the whole. Where would The Gentleman of the Road be without the Crisp White Nurse and her sexual peccadilloes? For those who haven’t read the book she was a bored nurse on night duty in a private establishment, and she could see little wrong with the odd flirtation (and more) with comatose patients.

In The Gentleman of the Road the girl Amanda Drayton only appears as an interacting character (forgetting Kevin’s recollections from earlier times) a handful of times and briefly at that, yet her final appearance, though brief, is a massive indication of the way things have concluded. But even more than that, she is constantly present in Kevin’s mind. She is his ideal – so does that make her into more than a minor character despite her relatively few appearances?

I hope this page has given you some insight into my attitude towards some of the minor characters in my books. Without them the tales would be reduced and with them they are I hope, at least worth the telling.

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