Writing Chronicles: To all the Characters You never meet

Do you like that imperfect reference to To All The Boys I loved before? No? Well, I thought it was clever.


This latest writing chronicles is to those characters dreamed up by writers but who readers never meet. Specifically, I am referring to the characters who cast a long shadow over events and your hero. In my present story, there are two such characters: my protagonist’s former love and her mother.

While my story may be supernatural, these characters are most certainly dead and will remain so. In general, I’m not a fan of bringing a character back from the dead. It cheapens death and the emotions it conjures up. That being said, I’m not above flirting with it.


But, as I began to tackle this story in earnest, I decided to begin with character sketches. For context, I haphazardly organize and outline stories. Depending on the story idea, I oscillate between meticulous attention to detail to flying by the seat of my pants.

For this story, I’m hovering between the two.

Some characters, like my protagonist and supporting characters, were easy to sketch out. Where were they born? Who are their parents? Their history? Family dynamics. Notes about how and when they met the protagonist. And, even what happens to them after the story ends.

It quickly became clear that I also needed to write up those two “off-screen characters.” They are the linchpin by which my protagonist pivots. How can she heal? How does she fill in the gaps of her identity when these key people are missing from it?

Sketching out these character histories wasn’t easy.  It was emotionally fraught, too. When I finished one of the character sketches, I won’t say which, I felt such a profound melancholy that I hadn’t expected. As a result, it gave a greater depth to my protagonist.

Consider writing up the character your reader will never meet. I think you’ll find it changes your perspective toward your on-screen characters and your overall story.