Writing Concepts

This article was originally published in The Writer’s Everything, Issue #011.

The Purpose Of Writing Concepts

Every week, published in my writing magazine, The Writer’s Everything, Writing Concepts will discuss a major piece of knowledge that authors would do well to be aware of.

This week, the topic of Writing Concepts is “Background Characters.”

Background Characters

Background characters are those who appear in the background of the story. They’re never the focus of the novel, and they almost never have a profound impact on its plot. Unlike primary and secondary characters, a background character has no character development, and more than likely no motivation or goals period. 

Background characters do very little in the story. Their appearances are often for the purpose of making the world feel large and lived-in. They always have flat character arcs, as they are never developed enough to either depict their wants and needs or to follow them in their pursuits of them. 

If you find that a background character is gaining a larger role in your story, perhaps appearing several times, or clearly defining their wants, needs, and actions, then it may be time to rethink their position in the narrative. Such characters could be developed until they’re secondary or even primary characters. 

In Ender’s Game, the nurse that talks to Ender in the very first scene, as well as the students that he defeats playing arcade-style war games at school, are all background characters. In The Fault in Our Stars, Patrick, the head of the cancer support group that both Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters attend in the basement of a church, is a background character, even though he has a couple lines of dialogue and it is his quirkiness that leads to the main characters bonding after the meeting.

The Writer’s Everything

This article, as well as many others, have been featured in previous issues of my writing journal, The Writer’s Everything, in which I, along with occasional guest contributors, provide essays, guides, encouragement, motivation, writing prompts, character bio development kits, and anything else that can help you turn your dream of becoming a writer into a reality.

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