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Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel Revised and Expanded Edition, 2nd Edition by Sara Paretsky, Hallie Ephron

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Chapter 13

Introducing Major and Minor Characters

“Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”

—attributed to Mark Twain

Not all characters are created equal, but each one appears on the page and makes a first impression. How big an impression should be in direct proportion to the size of the role that character plays in the novel:

  • Major characters get to have opinions and take action; they’re necessary to the integrity of the story. Take one out and the plot collapses. Major characters in a mystery include the protagonist, the villain, the suspects, the sidekick, and the supporting cast.
  • Minor characters play small but necessary roles. They may appear only once or twice. For instance, the barmaid who serves up that double-Scotch ...

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