Supporting Characters – The Mentor/Sage
Your main character may be dashing, powerful, bright or even enlightened. Perhaps they are the mentor to others by the end of the story, or revered right from the start. But they can’t be the only Wise Owl of the story.
Main characters must be relatable, and most of us can relate to looking up to someone, or having a person in our lives we’ve often relied on for advice, a prudent shoulder to cry on, or even the steady support of an understanding guiding force.
There are classically beautiful sage characters where mentor is obvious. The teacher, guardian, long-lost older brother or even a parent who has passed on but is still embedded in the mind of the main character; these are familiar roles throughout many stories. They bring an aspect of humanity to all levels of the manuscripts and are an important part of the driving desire in the main character to do right.
Think of the old angel/devil adage appearing on different shoulders. Often telling us what deep inside we already know. But that’s not their only role.
They also impart knowledge that is sometimes new, not only to the characters, but the reader as well. Mentors can be an excellent tool for brief “information dumps”. Since the main character believes in them, the readers instinctively will too.
Not all mentors have wise old eyes, long gray beards or impart wisdom while sipping tea. Some of the most memorable sages may be a sick child or someone who has quietly observed and taken everything in.
Then there’s my personal favorite, The Wise Fool. In my post on Supporting Characters – The Comic Relief, I talked about how sometimes “the fool” can add layers of foreshadowing and powerful concepts that grow throughout the story, and reveal them to in fact be the sage after all.
No matter what style mentor your manuscript brings to life, they offer a representation of truth, honor and knowledge. Their wisdom can aid both the strength and weaknesses of the main character. But ultimately, the principles and authenticity they embody is uniquely their own and exists regardless of which road the main character takes.
No matter what style manuscript you are working on, being sure that your work takes advantage of all your mentors have to offer is an important aspect of bringing the story to life.
Your main characters deserve guidance. Your plot deserves the validity.
Your manuscripts are worth it.
Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!
Thank you Erika for another great post.