How do you bring your minor characters to life?
Honestly, even the minor characters typically simply "come to me." Occasionally I base one off of someone from my real life, but mostly they present themselves to me.
When I need a minor character, I like to know one thing that makes them stand out. It's not necessary to invent a whole back story for them.When I needed to have Kassidy's editor at the Chicago Tribune send her out on assignment, an image of a bulldog came to me. The dialogue between them poured out. He's funny to her rather than intimidating, much to his chagrin, I'm sure.
Since Kass tends to give people nicknames, he shall forever be Bulldog Bob to her. The Arts and Entertainment Editor is Princess Olivia because of her grace and regal manner. Toni, hostess at Lou Mitchell's, is the Matchmaker.
She also has a couple of names for who becomes the antagonist, but I'll share that later.
Here's the encounter between Kassidy and her editor:
Bulldog Bob stopped and pointed at me. “Bates.” He reminded me of a bulldog, because of his big jowls and four chins. Any chair he sat in creaked in protest. He hooked his finger in a ‘come here’ gesture and went into his office, expecting me to be at his heels.
With him, I never knew what to expect. But then nobody else did either. He always scowled and barked orders, so I could be getting fired, scolded, praised or promoted. Impossible to tell until whatever it was happened.
Note to self. Better not ever call him Bulldog Bob to his face.
“A woman died in the River. Go.” He handed me a piece of paper and turned his attention to the computer. Code for dismissed.
The Chicago River made the miracle of walking on water seem possible. Thick and filthy, it was hard to imagine someone drowning in it.
“She couldn’t climb up the piles of pollution and save herself?” I calculated the commute time and stayed put.
Bob grunted and kept typing. “Good one, Bates. When do you open at Second City?”
“Next week, if I keep getting assignments like this.” I’ve never been to the legendary comedy club, but it is on my list of places to visit. In the audience, not as a comedian.
The typing paused, then resumed. “You’re still standing there.”
“You’re observant this morning. Must’ve had your coffee.”
“Deadline is in two hours, so you’d better get a move on.” He snapped.
It would take me most of that time to commute if I had to take the bus. “Keys.” I held my palm out for them.
He shook his head.
“Bob, you’re giving me a two hour deadline. I don’t’ have a car here and I don’t know the city. You have a Garmen, so I can get there and back in almost enough time to write half an article for you.”
“Nothin doin. I‘ve seen how you park.”
“I practiced,” I lied. Nobody ever has to parallel park in the Ozarks.
He stood and loomed over me with his jowls hanging and swaying in front of him. “One scratch and you’re dead. Hear me? Not just fired. D. E. A. D. Dead.”
“Gee, thanks for the spelling lesson. I always wondered how to spell that word.”
He grunted and tossed me the keys.
“See you in a couple of hours.” After my father and a houseful of boys, it took a whole lot more than blubber wagging in my face to intimidate me.
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