This weekend, I sold books and spoke on panels at Starfest.
One of the largest cons in Denver, Starfest is where I spoke on my first panel as an author, several years ago. It’s fitting, then, that I moderated my first panel there this weekend.
Titled “Supporting Casts and Creatures”, the panel focused on tips and tricks for writing characters who are neither the protagonist nor the antagonist. My esteemed panelists (authors Amity Green, James Hunter, Kal Spriggs, and Tonya DeMarco) weighed in with helpful and insightful points that I know I learned from, and I hope the audience did too.
Here are a couple points I remember most clearly:
Secondary characters need a reason for being. Including characters who don’t contribute meaningfully to the overall narrative, typically by interacting with the protagonist in some way, is an amateur move.
Many supporting characters may deserve their own arcs. Let them change throughout the novel. Show how events affect them, not just the protagonist.
Consider tracking character details in a spreadsheet. It’s easy to forget what color a supporting character’s eyes are, especially if they disappear from the pages for a while. Keeping track in an organized way will minimize mistakes.
In addition to moderating Supporting Casts and Creatures, I also spoke on two other panels: Villains, Masterminds, and Ne’er Do Wells, and Why Do I Need An Editor?
The first was much like the panel I moderated but focused on antagonists instead. One of the most interesting topics of conversation had the panelists considering the pros and cons of natural disasters as protagonists – can an iceberg or a storm effectively fill the role typically occupied by a villain with agency?
The second was less divisive and more educational, intended for audience members who were considering self-publishing. The biggest takeaway wasn’t related to editors at all but rather contracts – most amateur authors don’t read them or even require them, getting themselves into all kinds of trouble. It’s necessary to develop a whole host of skills to self-publish, all of which are valuable, but understanding contracts and contract law is perhaps the most essential.
My next cons are Myths and Legends and Fort Collins Comic Con this summer. If you attend, come say hello!