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need advice on how much detail for non-important characters

PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2016 1:00 pm
by heyharris1
I am rewriting a part in my story where 4 people get killed. The people are not important but the reason they are fighting is. So my question is would just the basics be enough. I saw no reason to go into extreme detail just to kill them off.

Re: need advice on how much detail for non-important charact

PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2016 2:05 pm
by cynicalwanderer
Yes, you're probably on the right track. If you expend too much detail on "red-shirts" (the term comes from the original Star Trek series, where it became a running joke that unnamed characters getting killed off on an away mission would invariably be those crew members wearing low-ranking red shirts) or other unimportant secondary chars, then the reader will subconsciously start to expect that these characters matter to the plot. If you then kill them off without fleshing out that character's arc to a logical conclusion, some readers may feel cheated or distrustful of the author's ability to "close" the story properly. It's not really something you can put up any rules for as such: you just have to feel your way through to what seems like the right balance of detail versus disinterest, which matches that character's value to the story.

Re: need advice on how much detail for non-important charact

PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2016 2:55 pm
by shadowwalker
Agree. The only time I would give these characters any detail would be if their position would have some significance to the story or other, more major characters. For example, if one of the characters carried an important document which might be referred to later in the story - a short description or even just naming the character would give the reader a reminder of what happened to the document. In that case, the character becomes semi-important but only in relationship to said document. In general, though, I wouldn't worry about it.

Re: need advice on how much detail for non-important charact

PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2016 11:46 am
by Crono91
The strategy that has helped me the most in this regard is to only describe what your character's POV would actually describe. Meaning, if your character is an aggressive war person, they would not normally notice the details on their shirt unless it applied to the battlefield. If your character is emotionally charged, they'd mostly notice the emotional ramifications of their death, rather than the death itself. So on. I apply this to most of my writing, too. My character wouldn't describe the forest in fluffy terms, but would describe them in a way that makes them advantage to his escape, since that's his personality.

"The forest was deep and filled with many lively green trees,"
"The trees pushed closed together, making it hard for me to see which way posed the less obstacles if I needed to run."