I have one POV character who is not too important to the story. He is an Elf soldier who keeps a important prisoner captive, and then captive runs away, and this Elf soldier then is hit and faints. When main character's POV appears and he comes to the place, he sees this Elf soldier lying on the ground and his friend bringing him some help. That is their only meeting together.

This Elf is not important to the main story and he does not affect it, he is just one of the soldiers in war. However, I really want to make him interesting and alive. Yet how can I accomplish this altough he is not part of the main story. I don't want to put him there just to a filler for pages, but to show an ordinary soldier's view of war.

So how to accomplish this? Thanks in advance!

  • 4
    If he's not important to the story, why is he in it, let alone getting a POV? Surely, the question should be "how can I make him important to the story"? Feb 22, 2020 at 22:08
  • 3
    Normally you wouldn’t have a POV character who isn’t important to the story but I can think of one exception which is also about a normal guys view of war: in Slaughterhouse Five the narrator is a character in the story but not important and his relation to the protagonist is never even explained. I recommend reading it. It’s very short.
    – levininja
    Feb 22, 2020 at 22:44
  • If you want to show how ordinary soldiers view war, then focus on what shapes their view. Maybe, if you've given your soldiers any backstory (like their training, and such), you could slip hints at those things while you fill pages with whatever you need to narrate. You could also use him to foreshadow something for the plot that you don't want to make too obvious. And if it's really just some average-joe Elf soldier that you don't want to put stock into, give him some funny quirk. Make the reader laugh a little bit (unless you want to avoid that response in readers).
    – Tasch
    Feb 24, 2020 at 14:46
  • 1
    @levininja: It's actually a style of first person narratives called "Epistle style" where the POV character is a witness to the events and is describing them in a letter or other fictional primary source. In film, this is typically "found footage" style genre's where the "Camera" is a character in world of the story (Like Cloverfield, which is a giant monster attack being filmed by a guy caught in the panicked fleeing crowd or "Chronicle" which culminates in a Superhero fight captured entirely by the extra's camera's including news, cellphone, and security cameras.).
    – hszmv
    Feb 25, 2020 at 19:16
  • @hszmv I didn't find "epistle style" through googling but I did find the Epistolary Novel form
    – levininja
    Feb 25, 2020 at 19:39

3 Answers 3


A clear example I can remember is Nick from ‘The Great Gatsby’. He is essentially a voyeur, and a sounding board for Jay Gatz. He never affects the plot directly. Though, what Nick notices and perceives ends up crystallizing a pretty clear portrait of his character for the reader. There is also something to be said about how Nick is essentially a bridge to connect a lot of characters who are otherwise isolated in different places. It is only through his POV that the book is able to realistically present scenes of Jay Gatz followed by ones involving Tom Buchanan. In these ways, Fitzgerald is able to describe Nick’s character, while also using him as a critical story device.

There is also another example in Frank Herbert’s ‘Children of Dune’. Herbert takes a momentary break from anxiety fueled political theater and psychedelic drug trips to zoom in on a single soldier on an opposing house’s planet. We see him at work, practicing an assassination drill where his only purpose is to press a single button, then oversee the operation. Through the course of menacing prose involving children murdered by tigers, we hear about the guard’s inner machinations. We hear the narrator whispering the truisms that dominate the soldier’s psyche - coupled with an assurance that he would be rewarded for being part of the practice for such a critical operation. Two chapters later the soldier is cut down by the very animals he controlled by order of his superior. Again we see a character who does very little to forward the plot through action. But, the soldier serves as important lesson to the reader. He illustrates the tyrannical and devious nature of his superior. He also is a window into the logic and pathos that occupies the minds of the soldiers of this outfit. Lastly, in the meta-context, it is Herbert communicating to the reader the disposability of newly introduced characters in his book.

In the case of your Elf, you can make them important by providing something for the reader through their eyes, ears, etc...

They never actually need to do something important in the story, but they can do something important for the reader.

As an exercise, it might be fortuitous to pretend they are the reader, or a type of reader who you want to communicate to more directly, by making something ‘happen to them’ in the story.


Leave some hint behind for the POV character which your main character can use back or remembers later. You can make the Elf soldier was being charged and presented to death by one of the main characters general for letting the prisoner escape. The main characters then solve this conflict and free the Elf from death. And since this plot is about war, the Elf repays back the main character (like saving his life during war) in later chapter.


Two main options:

  1. Make him part of the main story. Then he will, necessarily, be important/interesting.
  2. Don't make him part of the main story. Then he doesn't have to be important/interesting.

Based on the examples I'm seeing, it appears to me that #2 is quite viable. As the main narrator it's can be valuable for his tone/voice to be neutral/authoritative, rather than that he is necessarily an interesting character.


  • Ishmael in Moby Dick
  • The unnamed narrator (assumed to be the author himself) in Slaughterhouse Five
  • And just to add a different kind of example, each of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) are told by a narrator that hardly references himself in the story at all. Their role in the story being told just isn't that important.
  • Just a point of observation, but two of the Gospel writers (Matthew and John) were Disciples of Christ (Matthew is the tax collector turned disciple and John is the youngest of Jesus's 12 followers, self-identified as "the disciple Jesus loved"). Mark is said to be present in the Gospels but there's some debates as to who he is. The most common theory is he is John Mark. Luke doesn't have much of a Gospel apperence, but he also wrote Acts and had an association with Paul, who name checks him in Letters.
    – hszmv
    Feb 25, 2020 at 20:07
  • Also of note, is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke are the Synoptic Gospels, noting that the three books share largely similar event's occurring in roughly the same order, leading to the biblical sholar theory that all three writers were privy to the same "Q Source" that inspired them, be it actual events all three witnessed or a lost to history Q Gospel which additional material was added (Mark has nothing new when compared to Matthew and Luke, which both delve into the nativity). John is too different in it's focus to be from a Q source.
    – hszmv
    Feb 25, 2020 at 20:13
  • @hszmv just thought I'd let you know, it's not true that Mark has nothing unique. It just has much less unique than the other gospels. julianspriggs.co.uk/Pages/UniquePassages
    – levininja
    Feb 25, 2020 at 20:18

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