How To Make The Nameless, Faceless, & Minor Characters In Your Story Feel Human To You

This is one of the best things you ever can do for yourself as a writer for two reasons. The first reason is that it makes you consider aspects of your setting that you might not have thought about otherwise, which helps you develop it better and create a far richer and more dynamic world. The second is that it helps put you into the habit of thinking of them as actual people rather than props, which helps you write them more believably (because yes, how they behave does impact the plausibility of your story!) and helps you to avoid protagonist-centered morality. So read on to find out how!

Last revision: November 15, 2020.

Stop and visualize the nameless and faceless people of your setting in your mind. Think about the members of the working class - such as construction workers, teachers, shop employees, ag workers, and so on. Think about the scientists and scholars. Think about the police officers, guards, and the soldiers. Think about the civil servants, the students, the retired, and those unable to work because of disability. Now consider: each one of them has a name and a birthday. Each one of them has hopes and fears. Each one of them has thoughts and opinions. Each one of them came from two parents. Each and every one of them, no exceptions.

Figure out what life is like for the masses and the minor characters. What kinds of worries and concerns do they have? What sorts of struggles do they face? What do they hope for? What kinds of things do they hear about and witness in their lives? What kinds of jobs do they have? What are their jobs like? What do they do for fun? How do they relax and blow off steam? How do they celebrate holidays? How do they get along with each other? How do they annoy each other? How do they uplift each other? Put yourself into their shoes for awhile and think about all of these things.

Think about how they connect and interact. All of these people are interconnected to each other in a vast network. Imagine how different ones relate to each other and how they interact, whether in positive, negative, or neutral ways.

Develop some of them up as proper characters. Take your minor characters and some people from the masses and build them up as three-dimensional people. Name them, if you haven't already. Give them hopes, fears, and dreams. Give them tastes and opinions. Give them friends, family, and co-workers. Give them traits and struggles that you can sympathize with or relate to. Work out the basic details of their lives/backstories. Write all of these details down.

Write a short story on how they are affected by the actions of your main characters. For example, write about the person who was killed, hurt, or lost a home or loved ones as a result of the actions of your main characters - protagonists and antagonists alike. Write about the person who is helpless to do anything and can only sit by and watch while everything plays out. Write about the person who witnessed events in the story, but didn't comprehend what was going on. Write about the person who heard about it on the news. Write about the person who didn't survive the encounter. Detail what these characters see, hear, smell, touch, and taste in these moments. Detail their emotions and how they shift. Write out their thoughts. Write about how they feel about it afterward if they survive the experience - or if they don't, write about how their friends and family react to their deaths, and write about how they feel about it afterward.

Write a short story about their experiences with any other difficult, dangerous, and frightening situations they might have faced. What situations of this type might these characters have run into, in this setting? What did they think and feel about it then? What did they perceive? What did they make of it? And what did they think and feel about it afterward?

Write a short story about their daily lives. You can also use all of that stuff you figured out about them to assemble a short story about their lives. Write about what they perceive, think, and feel. Write about their thoughts, their concerns, and their goals. Write about the things that directly affect them on a day-to-day basis, and how they feel and think about them.

Write a short story in which they are the heroes. Write a story in which they do something positive that matters, even if it's only in some small way. At no point in this story should they meet or talk to the main characters, and any time spent talking or thinking about them should be minimal at best.

When your protagonists accidentally or unnecessarily harm someone, or end up harming someone as collateral damage, do these exercises. Humanize these people and write stories of the above types about them. Write about their experiences ending up being harmed by the protagonists. (If a lot of people were harmed, you needn't do each and every person, of course - a few will be fine.)

You might also be interested in:

Simple Ways To Fill Out & Humanize Your Character
Simple Tips To Put Yourself In The Shoes Of Characters Who Aren't You
Tips To Create & Write Better Non-Protagonist Characters (NPCs)

Backstory Idea Generator
Character Quirk Generator
Character Motivation Generator
Basic Character Family Relationship Generator

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