Characters You Can Pinch - Part 1

Give Everyone an Agenda

This advice came from a novel I read on the craft, and it's been a tremendous inspiration to me.  Now most of us realize that our main or supporting characters need an agenda.  In fact, they need to have a large one.

Characters are what drive the plot of a novel.   Agendas are what drive the characters.

So, that's a given, most of us realize that.  But what about minor characters - all novels have them.  The ones that show up in the police interrogation room, the guy at the coffee shop, the server at a restaurant.  You name it, every novel has them.  Maybe right now, you're thinking so what?

I'll tell you want.  Those minor, seemingly insignificant characters, give you the writer, the chance to shine.  Think of it this way, what person in real life doesn't have something else going on in their life, in their minds, when we interact with them.  If they didn't, they'd be robots.  We all have concerns, aspirations, responsibilities, and plans for what we want next.

Now, this book, in paraphrasing put it this way:  an agenda can be as simple as needing a glass of water.

Maybe you're still not buying this?  But, I urge you to try this in your novel.  Not, that I'm telling all of you to make everyone thirsty.  See beyond the words.  The jist of this is:  Keep it Simple.

But if you start thinking along of the lines all your characters being people, then you're well on your way.  For example, a person being interrogated by police.  Do you think they woke up that morning expecting the interview?  Is this all that was going on in their minds?  Delve into it.  Now, I'm not suggesting back story - at all.  But try to get in their mind-set for the scene.  Example, why are they co-operating?  Why aren't they?  Are they in a hurry to catch a bus to work?  Are they protecting someone?  Did they have a background with police?

When you can answer those simple questions, you have a simple underlying agenda for this type of scene.  Now, apply this thought process to everyone you come across in your novel.  As you practice this, and think about every character being a person, these simple agendas will start to flow without much thought.

Would love to hear any comments you have on this subject.
Next post:  Characters You Can Pinch - Part 2:  Take Time to Familiarize Your Reader with Your Characters


  1. Very good tip! I think it resonates well for the mystery writer: you've got to have a reason why your sleuth can't just get all the info s/he needs to solve the crime.
    Suspects are shifty - maybe they don't trust the police, or perhaps they're being loyal/ being blackmailed; witnesses might be hiding an embarassing secret, or they may know something important, but hated the sleuth in high school and just wants to see him/her fail; etc. Agendas are all-important!

  2. thank you for the continued support Charlotte :)


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