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You've spent hours on and off the page with your main characters. You know how they vote. You know their favorite drink. You know the micro-expressions they make when they lie or hide their true emotions. There's no other way to put it. You know your main characters inside and out.

But you might not be as informed about your secondary characters. You know those characters that help drive the plot or enhance setting, but you don't spend a lot of your word count diving too deeply into what makes them tick. That could be a mistake because they aren't just for show. They serve a purpose beyond what you may have intended.

These secondary characters help you define your main characters. How your main character interacts with them or feels about them reveals something about your main character. In short, your main character's development is often tied to these secondary characters, so that's why it's important to know as much about these secondary characters as you do your main characters.

I know you've got a lot to think about when you're writing a novel. There are a lot of moving parts, and it easy to let one element of story lag behind the others. The element that is most often neglected or not fully explored is the development of secondary characters. You are missing the opportunity to write a truly enriching story if you gloss over the development of those secondary characters.

-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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2,893 Views Tags: character_development, characterization, secondary_characters, main_characters

Apr 3, 2017 11:33 AM walton    says:

I agree, but there is a kind of character who is important but requires little or no background. 


Our hero needs to witness a murder early on in the story.  He's at work, his boss is a jerk, they have words, our hero leaves.  He gets in his car and off he goes.  We need only a reason to get him out of the office at 2:15 in the afternoon.  Beyond that the boss is unnecessary, unless there is further interactions later on.


So our hero has a flat, and that is why he is able to witness the murder in the house just off the freeway.  How did he get a flat?  He rode over a screw and it worked its way into his tire.  We don't need to know if it is a slotted round head screw or a zinc plated philips flat head . . . just like we don't need to know much about the boss.



Apr 19, 2017 3:50 AM mattious_28    says:

Secondary characters is one of the things I struggle most with when trying to write fiction. I've read time and again that characters need to be "dynamic" (and this post was helpful in understanding what that means), but I find it hard to find a balance between overwriting/sharing too much backstory, and still getting them to change throughout the novel.