The Key to a Great Story – Character Basics

The Key to a Great Story – Character Basics

My series ‘The Key to a Great Story’, based on the ‘who, what, where, why and how’ is my guide for an absolute beginner looking to write fantasy fiction. I start now with ‘who’ and the bare bone basics of characters.

Who is in your story is a fundamental part of your writing. There are many types of characters in a story. Major characters, minor characters, and background people.

Major characters generally fall into two categories. The protagonist who is usually the main character in the story, and the antagonist who the protagonist works against. On the most simple of levels, the first is good and the latter is evil; this is particularly true of fantasy writing. The hero of the story works to try and defeat the villain.

However, they are not alone; both sides are normally accompanied by a series of minor characters. There are two main reasons for this; one it is more plausible that the hero and the villain wouldn’t be alone and two both of them need other people to talk to besides each other. While I’m not averse to some inner monologue and some action description, fiction is best told in the conversations that characters have with one another.

Unless you’re writing a short story or at a push a novella you can’t write a story with just two characters especially in novels. If you want to try to at any length, you really need to have a very tight hold over your plot. You also need to make damn sure you don’t go down the route of the antagonist having a boastful speech about their superiority or evil plot, when in truth if they just got on with being evil/annoying/victorious they wouldn’t give the protagonist time to figure out how to defeat them. So likely as not you’re going to need to create some minor characters as well.

Then you have the background people; you won’t need to know too much about them but the reader does need to know who else might be there and how they generally react in certain situations. They include crowds, other kids in a classroom/workers in an office/ fighters in a battle etc. If you’re going to be writing any scene like this, don’t forget you’re going to need background people to add depth to your story.

Well there you go, the bare bone basics of who you might have to include in your writing.


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