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I have a question that may shake my story up a bit.

So I'm going for a mix of Faust and Dorian Gray with a very violent tone that's set in modern times. Now nearing finishing my outline/synopsis, I see that I need a side character who'll help with the exposition, also with the final showdown against a certain demon.

But if I add this Van Helsing like character, I know that they may steal the show and make my MC completely boring and helpless.

Guess I'm asking for stories where the cool side character just enters the show, does their job and leaves without taking the attention from the MC.

I'm baffled with what I should. So thanks in advance if you help me in anyway.

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2 Answers 2

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Good side characters contrast and complement main characters.

From Dune, the characters of Gurney, Duncan, and Thufir model the traits the man Paul Attriedes grows into.

From 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress,' by Robert Heinlein, the characters of Prof and Michaël and their discussions serve to frame the cost of inaction and the risks of taking stand that the story pivots around.

If you are worried that your side character is too awesome, you can break them up into separate roles -- Macbeth's witches are really a single device from the stand point of telling a story, but as three they seem more menacing and more abstract. (And as a trio they mimic the Greek idea of the furies or the fates depending on how you interpret them.)

I think you are on the proper track: you've identified the need in the story for some additional source to inform the reader of things needed to better enjoy the story or for the character to gain the proper knowledge to act effectively.

Things to consider are:

  1. Have you over fulfilled the need? Is this character too capable for the role you need play in the story?

  2. Can I weaken this supporting character by splitting them into multiple new characters -- characters whose traits make them interesting while adding an additional source of conflict to the story

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  • Thanks for your help. Yours and the other user's answer really helped. I'm actually making the side character the MC!
    – 6FarGap3
    Mar 16 at 16:01
  • you’re welcome.
    – EDL
    Mar 16 at 17:00
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Don't worry, you aren't alone.

This is my advice: try to establish what role they are going to play (such as protagonist, antagonist, deuteragonist, tertiary character, foil, etc.). If they are a deuteragonist (which is a character who is almost in the spotlight of the story) or tertiary character (which is a character that is only there for a couple of scenes) or anything else, write their backstory. It doesn't matter if it is bigger or more grandiose than the MC, just write it. Then cut out the parts the reader or the story doesn't need or will never know and try to minimize their scenes and cut their traits and backstory* in your story. If that doesn't help, maybe swap the exciting things about your character with the MC.

Another advice is to research and analyse and collect the books/movies with your favourite characters with supporting characters that don't take the spotlight from the MC. For example, Hermione from Harry Potter. I have never read the books (sadly), but I think and heard that J.K. Rowling does a great job writing her as a character. I would recommend Reedsy for articles about writing.

Remember: readers won't like characters because they are more special than others, they will like them because they are relatable.

I hope this helps!


*Only write the traits and backstory that are essential to build the person that they are and why they act the way they act.

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  • Thank you so much
    – 6FarGap3
    Mar 8 at 15:54
  • Its alright, @6FarGap3!
    – Junk Email
    Mar 9 at 18:15

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