Creating the backgrounds for characters can be both fun and excruciating when you’re starting out a new project. You can come up with interesting, unique people to write about, give them all sorts of back stories — their background, their culture, their quirks, their powers and their weaknesses — but at the same time, they don’t exist in a vacuum. You need to also remember that they’re also there to interact with your other characters and the story itself. Otherwise they’re just placeholders, or worse, redshirts — the throwaway characters put there for the sole purpose of getting rid of them later on.
I’ve been dealing with this quite a bit for the last few weeks, with both the Apartment Complex story and In My Blue World. A lot of the central characters are springing forth rather easily, and that’s because I already have fully-planned purposes for them. A few of the other characters, on the other hand, are still a bit vague and need more research and planning. I only have vague purposes for them. By vague, I mean that they support some of the main characters, but other than that, they’re kind of inconsequential.
Granted, both projects are still in their rough draft iterations and haven’t gotten the MS Word transcription/revision yet. I’m not giving up on them just yet. They’ll shine on their own eventually, once I flesh out the story and get a clearer picture of who they are and why they’re there. I just have to be a bit patient about it sometimes!
So how do I know if I can trust this character to blossom during a later draft? Or will they end up being a redshirt that I’ll have to edit out later? Good question. Often times I don’t. The point here is to let them give the old college try. I put there for a reason, so I just need to figure them out. I’ll give them just that little bit more TLC when I’m revising; I’ll think a bit more about their relationship to the story and the others within it.
Eventually, they’ll become part of the main entourage instead of a throwaway.