Corrine Kenner | Author, Astrologer, Tarot Reader
Have you been thinking about crafting a short story? Here’s a free excerpt on character creation from my book Tarot for Writers.
When you’re ready to start assembling the cast of your next story, deal yourself a starting hand. Begin with one card for every character you’ll need. Typically, you’ll want to include:
A Protagonist. The protagonist is the hero of the story. He sees the most action—and the most conflict. The word “protagonist” is Greek; it used to mean the first actor to speak on stage in a drama. Since the protagonist is the star of the show, you’ll want to develop a detailed character profile to use as a reference while you write.
An Antagonist. Every hero has an opponent—the anti-hero, or antagonist. Even though the antagonist isn’t the main attraction, he or she should be just as interesting as the protagonist.
Foils. Because everyone needs a friend, many literary characters have foils—sidekicks who illustrate their strengths and weaknesses. Don Quixote’s foil was Sancho Panza; Sherlock Holmes had Dr. Watson. Fred had Barney, and Lucy had Ethel. Even bad guys have henchmen, minions, and lackeys: Captain Hook had Mr. Smee, for example, and Dr. Evil had Mini-Me.
Supporting Characters. Figures who pop up throughout the course of a story without taking lead roles themselves are supporting characters. They usually have names and at least some explicatory background; you can develop character sketches for them, too.
Stock Characters. Almost every story includes stock characters, such as bartenders, taxi drivers, and mail carriers. They’re usually nameless, but they step in as needed to keep the story moving.
You might be tempted to develop a proverbial cast of thousands—especially when they come so readily through tarot cards. Don’t succumb. Remember to keep your minor characters locked into minor roles. Consolidate their parts when you can, and make sure that their presence adds to the story without detracting from the major players.
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Photo by Katrina Brown; licensed by Corrine Kenner