Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Writing 101: The Unseen Character

Most characters in your book exist somewhere in the world you’ve created. They interact with other characters, they move things around, they’re in the pages. But you can create another type of character who lives somewhere off the page: the unseen character. Though you don’t lay eyes upon them, they can be very effective in all sorts of different ways.


The Invisible

The unseen character always does things in the background, behind the scenes, and your readers only find out about them third hand. This can be incredibly useful and help you, as a writer, get all sorts of things done. How can you use an unseen character? A few options immediately come to mind.




  • For comedy. It works very well to use an unseen character just for laughs. Someone who does or says outrageous things, but only offstage, is surprisingly funny and works like a charm. See an example of this storytelling technique in the musical “Gigi.” You never see her mother, but you do hear her singing -- and it’s hilarious.
  • For evil. Allow me to suggest an unseen villain. This is a very creepy way to keep your book scary and intense. A villain you can’t even see is truly terrifying indeed, and I’ll prove it. Just go watch “Jaws.” It’s way scarier when you can’t see the shark.
  • For the plot. Need something to happen? When you need to make a shift or a change in the story in order to get the plot moving along, unseen characters are very useful. Just have them effect the change and you’re done. You didn’t bother to bring them into the story, not really, so you don’t have to think about them again.

Find your own uses for an unseen character, and have a little fun with someone that doesn’t have to be three-dimensional or have all their goals outlined. Inject them into the story for a specific reason and then toss them aside. This is why they exist, so use them for all your storytelling purposes.

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