How to write supporting characters

A quick and relatively effective way to help begin to flesh out your supporting characters are to undertake what is actually a relatively simple exercise. Get a piece of paper and divide it in half with a line – on one side, label it the name of your protagonist, and on the other, label it the name of your supporting character. After that’s done, begin writing down character traits for your protagonist. Once that’s done, you have to make a decision about the supporting character – are they supportive, or non-supportive? If they’re supportive, then take the traits that you wrote down for the protagonist and just exaggerate them on the other side – simple enough, right? This is a great way to figure out how to write characters.

However, if they’re a non-supportive character, just write down the opposite trait – if your hero is troubled, your supporting character is perpetually relaxed. If your hero is a sports fan, your supporting character could absolutely care less about them. Come up with about 10-20 traits because that should give you more than enough to work with. If you can’t meet those numbers, try 6-12 instead. That should be a little bit easier.

In short, don’t let the name of your supporting characters fool you – they’ll very quickly end up being some of the most important characters in your whole screenplay for the reasons that your author has listed above (again, this is key to knowing how to write characters). You will need them to not only reveal more about your protagonist (and how the people around them, in their own world and day to day lives, view them) but also to stand on their own two feet. No one wants to see sitcom stock characters in a movie theater because if they wanted that, they could just stay at home and binge watch Friends on Netflix.

If you can demonstrate to established Hollywood movers and shakers (studio heads, producers, A-List actors, and directors) that your supporting characters are just as lovingly crafted as your protagonists and antagonists are, then you’ll have an infinitely better chance of actually seeing your script get made.