Sunday, April 02, 2006

Secondary characters or "Don't send me down with Captain Kirk if I'm not Spock or Bones!"

I would hate to listen to a conversation between secondary characters. And if they ever become organized...we're all in trouble.
Secondary characters are most often easily dismissed. Sacrificed. Taken advantage of. And treated as stupid...even when they're anything but.
These characters are sounding boards, the voices of reason, and dynamic shifters. They often are catalysts and fall guys. Rough job, huh?

Or we, as the employers, can make them smart. But not TOO smart. We can make them attractive. But not TOO attractive. And God forbid we make them wittier than the main characters!!!
It's a fine line when we create the world of our literary dreams. We must blend characters together and find the right balance to showcase our stories. Who wants the Steve Urkel of characters to take over?
For example...I read Nora Robert's flower trilogy. And there is a character named David in them. He cooks and runs the household at the main house. And I loved him! Right this very minute...I can't remember any of the other characters' names. And I would love to read David's story. But I don't see it happening. I would have been happy if Nora had given him a relationship throughout the book. You know, start in book one and meander towards book three with a HEA going on for him. On the other hand...David is gay. And I wonder if that's why. I guess I'll never know.

Secondary characters can make or break a book. (I don't share that with mine. They might get the big head.) But I do try to treat them right. And sometimes...there will even be a spin-off book for them. *wink*
Sometimes it's incredibly easy to dumb them down and only give them parts that complement the main characters. But what fun is that? They may be secondary...but they ARE characters. Spice 'em up. Show 'em a good time. And more than likely you'll get a good return for your investment.
I'm reminded of Jack and Karen from "Will and Grace." What would the show be without them? A little less gay. A little less snarky. And not nearly as fun.


Dorothy said...

I'm with you. My secondary characters are a hoot. They get the laughs and they even get to be on center stage ocassionally. They don't take away from the main character...they add to the main character. It all works. Nice post!

Michelle said...

I love it when you find that nice balance between secondary and main characters. And like you, I thought David was great! :)

Rene said...

An obnoxious secondary character can chase me away from a book. Too many authors seem to be relying on them. I quit reading the Stephanie Plum series because of the secondary characters.

Generally, my secondary characters are me, if that makes sense. They are my common sense, my voice of reason. I also use them in the context of the hero's journey.

Sometimes they provide the comic relief, but not often since I don't write funny.

Nancy J. Bond said...

One of my favorite characters is from a story I wrote several years ago. Frenchy -- a stout, red-faced chef with a terrible temper, a hint of French accent, and a gigantic heart. He was a secondary character in the story, but everyone who read him, loved him. :-) Great post!

Tori Lennox said...

My murder mystery is crawling with secondary characters. Recurring secondary characters. At least I hope they're recurring. :) Some of them are quite fun. Others need to get a life. *g*