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Darling Supporting Characters

On my very first archetype post, Amy, from the blog Inkcouragenent, asked if I could have a post about secondary characters.  I am ending the archetype series with this topic, because it is an archetype that is sometimes an afterthought in writing.  When plotting out your story and characters, do not forget about these secondary (or supporting characters, as I like to call them).  They are the backbone to your main character.

Supporting characters exist for one reason: to add depth to the protagonist.

The sole purpose for these characters is to interact with the protagonist and, to some extent, enable that character to grow.  The supporting characters do things within a story to affect the main character, leading to reader to see the different dimensions of the protagonist.  This character type may be multi-faceted and can temporarily redirect the plot to give him or herself more backstory, which feeds back into the protagonist’s character or story.

John Watson, of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed Sherlock Holmes mysteries, is an epic supporting character.  Watson gives Sherlock immeasurable depth.

“Watson also serves as the important function of catalyst for Holmes’ mental process.”  – William L. DeAndrea

The supporting role of Watson, who in a way is dubbed a sidekick and occasional flatmate, is Sherlock’s sounding board.  He helps the great detective’s mind to tick.  He is Holmes’ stimulation.

Not all secondary characters have to fall into the character archetype.  As with all archetypes, the list is innumerable.  So within this post, I will restrict the list to just a few.

The Villain / Nemesis:  This is a tough one to categorize, because in one aspect, the villain is typically the antagonist.  However, a story usually revolves around the protagonist.  Therefore, even if a Villain is the antagonist of the protagonist, that villain is also supporting the protagonist.  The villain is adding depth in some way or fashion to the main character by driving the character to be good (or evil, depending on how you look at the dichotomy between the two characters).   Examples: Moriarty (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), Voldemort (The Harry Potter series), Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs)

Send in the Clowns!  (c) GaborfromHungary

Send in the Clowns! (c) GaborfromHungary

The Lover: This character is one of the few that can bring the protagonist pure happiness or utter despair, for unrequited love is a major source for conflict.  The Lover character can possibly be the driving force for the main character, where all of his or her actions through out a story are based upon influences of The Lover.  Examples: Juliette (Romeo and Juliet), Mattie Silver (Ethan Frome), Annabel Lee

The Sidekick: This character stands by the character’s side through thick and thin. However, there will be an element of conflict that will arise between the two.  Depending on the grounds for the conflict, it may resolve peacefully or volatility.  The latter usually results in the supporting character becoming an antagonist or dying, but that is for a post on another day.  Examples:  Iago (Othello), Friday (Robinson Crusoe), Sancho Panza (Don Quixote)

The Mentor: This character gives guidance and passes on valuable information to the protagonist to assist the character on his or her journey.  In some situations where a protagonist may have been orphaned or have an abusive parent, the Mentor character may be viewed by the protagonist as a mother or father figure.  This provides the main character with an element of family.  Examples:  Merlin (King Arthur), Gandalf (Lord of the Rings), Van Helsing (Dracula)

The Clown / Fool:  This character may be the Sidekick or an entity upon his or her own.  The Clown provides comic relief and a conscience to the protagonist.  The Clown also give the main character an invitation to freedom.  Characteristics of this character are often portrayed with hilarity and jolly, however he or she can lie on the antagonistic side of the main character.  Typically if the character is treated well, as a best friend, he or she is a good character.  If the Clown is treated bad, especially by the villain, then he or she is often a bad character.  Examples: Bottom (Midsummer Nights Dream), The Mad Hatter / March Hare / Door Mouse (Alice in Wonderland), Haymitch (The Hunger Games series)

If you would like additional details on the archetypes listed here or to see a longer list of character archetypes, which contains additional characters that could fall under the supporting character archetype, refer to the 13 Characters post.

I hope you have enjoyed the Archetype Series that have graced the pages of The Sarcastic Muse over these past few weeks.  If there are any other archetypes that you wish to explore further, please comment below.  If you have missed any of the past Archetype Series posts and would like to refer to them, click here.

Don’t forget… it is okay to kill your Darlings (characters that is — not your living darlings.  The latter would not be cool).

If you have enjoyed this topic, be sure to check out other posts in The Archetype Series.


8 thoughts on “Darling Supporting Characters

  1. These are brilliant nuggets of wisdom to use within our writing. It is as if each of these posts should be compiled into a neat and tidy little reference notebook to be used in the compilation of my next piece. Thanks so much for sharing (and for the giggle during the last sentence) 😉

    • Thanks, Dave, and you are welcome! I have a plethora of information for archetypes and have plans to develop a book focused on how consciously think about archetypes while mapping out a story. Integrating that exercise into the development of a story can help make it a stronger piece.

      Hehe, had to add that disclaimer – don’t want to be the brunt of blame for anything 😉

  2. Pingback: My Condolences to the Weasley Family; It Really Is All About Harry | Vivie Thinks

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