Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Secondary Characters…why you need them

Sometimes I’m in the middle of reading a book and wish the writer would have given more on stage time to one of the secondary characters. Sometimes they’re just as lovable as the main characters. Many times they’re the villains of the novel. Either way they’re fun to read and even more fun to create.

Here’s why I think secondary characters are needed in very book-

They Move The Plot
One of the rules of top notch writing is to move the plot with every sentence. Adding a colorful secondary character allows you to do just that. It might be a conversation between the hero/heroine and the secondary character. Or it could be a scene where the secondary character tells someone about the main character and what happened to them.

They Add A Touch of Evil
Remember your main character can’t be all bad or all good because readers won’t believe they’re real. Therefore, adding a villain into the mix can add justify their actions. The main character might be in pursuit of the villain, they might be tested by this character. They might even be forced to save the world by taking the villain’s life. The main character is able to show their true colors by interacting with this villain and it’s believable.

They Take It Up a Notch
In my mystery novel, Death Likes Me, one of my favorite characters apart from my main character, Niki Webber is Joel Clancy. He’s cute’ he’s a bad boy who by story’s end gets himself into a bunch of trouble. However, he’s a perfect sparring partner for Niki. Some of my favorite scenes are between Niki and Joel and the words they throw at one another. Joel brings out another side of Niki’s character and without his help I couldn’t have shown the reader who Niki really is and what she stands for.

They Can Make a Sub Plot
If you’re writing a longer novel, you need a sub plot. What better way to weave that into your story than with another character and a mini story that interacts with the main story line.

They’re Just Plain Fun
Even if you’re writing a dark novel, adding a secondary character along with some humor can add more depth to your book and break up the tension. After all no reader likes all doom and gloom.

One to Check Out
One of my all time favorite characters and TV shows is Inspector Morse. Morse is the creation of writer Colin Dexter. Pick up one of his novels or watch some Inspector Morse reruns and see what great secondary characters Dexter creates. He’s also one of the best writers when it comes to sub plots too.

Susan Palmquist is a freelance writer and author of romance and mystery novels. Her next novel, Sleeping with Fairies is due for release later this year. As well as blogging at Romance Writers in the Rough, she also writes a monthly blog at Between the Lines called ‘Susan Palmquist Interviews’. Her next short mystery story will appear in the December 7th issue of Woman’s World. To learn more about her and to see a preview of the cover of Sleeping with Fairies, visit her Web site at


Lindsay Townsend said...

Excellent blog, Susan! I agree with you about the importance of secondary characters.

Jen Childers said...

THis is great. I always wind up liking the secondary characters better for some reason.
Jk Rowling made the comment that she was surprised how often people like her minor.
Snape reall does desrve his own book

Free Blogger Templates by Isnaini Dot Com . Powered by Blogger and PDF Ebooks