As I was crafting the last post, a thought occurred to me about minor characters. This is an idea that really deserves discussion. When I'm writing, I find it sometimes a little too easy to start painting a image of a character in the reader's mind. I really enjoy breathing life into my characters, imagining how they would react to whatever situation they're in, and feeling their reality through the words I type.
The problem this presents however, involves building up these characters in such a way so that they support the story rather than distract from it. To expand upon this idea, everyone around us has a story. Even people who feel their lives are boring and of no consequence have a story to tell, if someone were willing to listen to it. This is good and bad. From our perspective as writers, this means that we have plenty of material to draw from as we create our fictional characters, to the point where our fictional characters feel as alive as the real people around us.
The bad aspect of this however, is that if we're not careful, every character can become a focal point without anyone being truly the main character of the story. This may be the point of the book, if for example you're writing a collection of stories revolving around a number of individual lives. If however, your goal is to describe the life of one or two people, your reader will lose focus as they try to follow too many paths.
So how do you deal with keeping the story focused while still allowing your minor characters to live and breathe in the minds of your reader?