Don’t underserve a character in story

Among the challenges of penning a novel or short story is to ensure that a character is used just the right amount in a story. When an author keeps a character from being involved too much in the story’s plot, the character is often said to be underserved.

For example, if one of the characters in a story about a family of four was fairly flat or undeveloped, that character would be underserved. Perhaps more about the characters’ motivations and personality or possibly more about his conflict with other three needs to be added.

You’ll often find examples of underserved characters in television series. Acting contracts that demand a certain number of speaking lines per episode and the time constraints imposed by commercials can periodically force various character to appear less than they should to further the storyline.

By underserving, authors undercut the drama. If the story deals with a family of four, then each of the four characters probably should have conflicts with the other three. If one character lacks any conflicts, however, the section of the story dealing with him likely will not move along the story’s plot.

Usually authors underserve peripheral characters, especially those that the writer has little sympathy for. This lack of sympathy prevents the author from fully exploring and acknowledging the value of the character’s needs and motivations.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.