Supporting Characters - Too Minor to Include?

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  • Supporting Characters - Too Minor to Include?

    As usual, before I post, I use the search function to try to find similar posts in the past but couldn't find one for this - a little surprised.

    A writing colleague showed us some information that Wm. Martell wrote about eliminating characters who do not add to the story - no problem there.

    The question comes up about very minor characters such as waiters, taxis drivers, door men, cashiers, etc. - those with one or two lines in just one scene. They don't add to the plot but just make the scene more natural, I think.

    Are we saying that for financial reasons, to not include them? Would it ok (cheaper) if we use them but not give them a speaking role?

    Are readers/producers/reps actually thinking about this financial element when they first read your script and do they downgrade you for it?

  • #2
    Re: Supporting Characters - Too Minor to Include?

    Something to consider:

    How do the main characters interact with the minor characters? For example, what does the protag do when a waitress tells him he can't have wheat toast?

    These little (subtle) encounters develop character. So if a character doesn't add to the plot, advance story, or develop character then why are they there?

    If you have another reason why they need to be there then it would be wrong to exclude them. Make it work.
    "I am the story itself; its source, its voice, its music."
    - Clive Barker, Galilee

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    • #3
      Re: Supporting Characters - Too Minor to Include?

      Originally posted by socalwriter1 View Post
      The question comes up about very minor characters such as waiters, taxis drivers, door men, cashiers, etc. - those with one or two lines in just one scene. They don't add to the plot but just make the scene more natural, I think.

      Are we saying that for financial reasons, to not include them? Would it ok (cheaper) if we use them but not give them a speaking role?
      In my opinion (for what it's worth) don't worry about this kind of thing. If I remember correctly, Bill Martel was talking about too many similar characters and the trouble they cause in trying to "move them around." I don't think this had anything to do with normal characters in normal situations. It's just not natural to get rid of waitresses or cab drivers. If the budget is that tight, let the director or producer worry about whom to eliminate.
      STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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      • #4
        Re: Supporting Characters - Too Minor to Include?

        Originally posted by socalwriter1 View Post
        As usual, before I post, I use the search function to try to find similar posts in the past but couldn't find one for this - a little surprised.

        A writing colleague showed us some information that Wm. Martell wrote about eliminating characters who do not add to the story - no problem there.

        The question comes up about very minor characters such as waiters, taxis drivers, door men, cashiers, etc. - those with one or two lines in just one scene. They don't add to the plot but just make the scene more natural, I think.

        Are we saying that for financial reasons, to not include them? Would it ok (cheaper) if we use them but not give them a speaking role?

        Are readers/producers/reps actually thinking about this financial element when they first read your script and do they downgrade you for it?

        Very, very often minor characters seem like they're not adding to the plot when in fact they're performing vital functions.

        I saw Wall Street last night. When Bud Fox tries to get to Gekko, he has to get past the secretary, whose playing the threshold guardian.

        Most often, especially in classic stories that stand the test of time, they're there for a reason.
        Story Structure 1
        Story Structure 2
        Story Structure 3

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        • #5
          Re: Supporting Characters - Too Minor to Include?

          And that's the main question... do they add to the telling of the story. And if so, do they say something that propels the action forward or are they filling space?

          Most are right when they say, this is not something you should be worrying about while writing the script. let the director and producer worry about it.

          wks

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          • #6
            Re: Supporting Characters - Too Minor to Include?

            1) If you're trying to get your script sold or optioned or produced, or get represented, my general rule would be:

            Don't write anything that can act as a "speedbump" to a reader.

            If the scene is conspicuously missing a waitress or secretary, put them in.

            If the scene calls for a secretary to propel the action forward, but your secretary or what "business" he does causes a distraction, take him out.

            Just get the script sold first, which means keep it streamlined and getting read.

            Once it's in production or sold, you may have a better leg to stand on to tweak stuff (or you may be completely out of the loop from that point on).

            2) If your script is being produced, KNOW YOUR PRODUCTION.

            Because producers often need to balance between keeping their cast budget low, on one hand, and handing out bit parts POLITICALLY, on the other.

            (For example, the producer's wife needs a role, or they need to give a part to the guy who owns the grip truck who's giving them an amazing deal on the equipment)

            So producers may need to have the character speak ZERO lines in order to save money, or they may need the character to have SOME lines in order to politically satisfy.

            That's my $0.02 on that whole thing, coming from a background of production. Ah, the politics!

            Brian
            http://screenplayreaders.com

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