The Major Importance of Minor Characters

Just this morning I realized how very grateful I am to have what I had thought to be a minor character in a novel blossoming into something unexpected.

One works so very hard at making the lead characters smooth and consistent, (and it is an effort, especially in rewrite, to make sure their various histories, yearnings and foibles remain ‘in character’, even as the characters are changing, as they must change).

But the minor characters come in drawn with a few strokes.  Overdrawn is even better, so that they will stand out.  And the incredible wealth of back-story that the lead or leads have, can’t be done for each minor character.  This gives them a great deal of freedom.  This is possibly why – in my writing, anyway – they tend to take over the book.

It’s rather as if one had opened the door to let someone in, thinking they are delivering a package or fixing a pipe, only to find, later, that the figure in the doorway has redone one’s whole house.  Always making it better.

Die Gedanken Sind Frei – Thoughts Are Free (or used to be)


There are times when I wish I could take the entire electronic media of world in my hands, as if it were some small, irritating, buzzing thing, and tamp in down.  Quiet.  Even if I had such godlike power I wouldn’t do it, because the suffering and deaths of millions would ensue. I would have to be a more intelligent, selective sort of god to do what I would like to do.

I’m trying to find the proper words to say what it is I would like to do.  I would like to return the minds of humans back to being their own property.   Even when groups of people were and still are enslaved, and their days don’t belong to themselves, their words, in private, still do.  Perhaps spoken in the dark, before sleep, their words and feelings are their own.

I’m not saying that these feeling were in the past and are now particularly informed or right – whatever ‘right’ means.  I am just saying that these thoughts weren’t bought, pressured, analyzed or categorized by that great presence called The Media.

In recent years I can’t open a screen, or pick up a piece of paper without hearing what percentage of people in what particular survey agree with any opinion.  There is rarely any source back to who took these surveys that create the great All-Knowing and momentarily changing News.  So that a human being who happens to look like, or sound like, or be in the same age, sex or money group as the ones stated, is informed daily what he or she is expected to believe.  And the things about which we must have opinions are also analyzed, categorized, and, thereby – limited.  So if I happen to have a strong opinion that the sky in the northwest the evening before was an unusual color, or a creek-bed doesn’t seem to be in the same place it was stated to be on Google Earth, that opinion is dissolved.  It doesn’t fit in the categories.

If I sound like I am feeling crotchety, let me state my own view of myself.  I am frightened.

Sometimes I go out into the shrubbery, and then the next-door forest, just to meet the eyes of a hare, or those of a deer for a moment.  Hell, if I don’t run into a pair of eyes I will settle for an alder sapling.  I like to know that in that moment, an individual who is be-ing is encountering another who is be-ing.  And we are all engaged in being, at least for the moment. The fact that we can’t exchange a single word is all to the better, as it means we can’t misunderstand one another.  I don’t believe I’ve ever been misunderstood by an alder sapling.

In one of my best day-dreams, I walk up to a little house where the door happens to be open and call in “Hello.  May I talk to you.  Have you time for me to tell you a little story?  We may both enjoy it.”

I expect it is much the same for a sidewalk artist, or anyone who draws a picture or scratches it into an unimportant rock, hoping that someone, later, might see it and respond to it.  And there will be no analyzing, no categorization. – Now that I think on it, I am reminded of Newgrange, over 4,000 years ago.  I don’t think anyone has been able to analyze the spirals on the rocks of Newgrange.  But people still look at them.

But for an artist in today’s world, a person has to break through so many layers of training and conditioning just to come out with a simple shape worked into a rock and call it good. Or to walk into someone’s house – even if they know them already – and tell a little story.

I live in hope.