Call them side kicks, background or just extras the secondary character or even the tertiary one adds a lot to your tale. We see this in movies all the time. The hero and heroine of the flick gets all the big scenes and all the talk but it is those background characters that give them depth and range.
Think of the superhero, it is his side kick who pulls him up from being overly anything. As I read a book or watch a movie I find myself pulled into those characters. Be it Woody Harrelson’s role in Catching Fire or the Procter in R.I.P.D. they give the hero someone to bounce things off of.
When writing we need to make sure we have strong and deep heroes/heroines but what is a hero without those other characters to bounce ideas off of? Normally I use this blog to go on about my own books but I plan on commenting on other writers if I can today.
When I sit down and read other authors in my genres I of course am enjoying a well crafted tale but I am looking for those secondary characters that make the story worth reading. characters like Ben in the Mercy Thompson stories. A werewolf with a bad attitude and a killer british accent who develops as the series moves along. He starts out rude and obnoxious but the highly talented Patricia Briggs slowly evolves him into a character that you care about. You gasp when he is hurt and you pray that he will get past what was done to him. With a deft hand she explains his back story and makes you care.
Sherrilyn Kenyon is a hero of mine for her work ethic and all the rich characters she creates. Her secondary characters evolve from book to book, quite often getting their own stories as the world evolves. In her League books Maris is a rich and strong character. Starting out with almost a camo he slowly is built into a tragic hero from a race of people who can not understand that he is still a man even if he loves men. Scarred emotionally and physically he is honorable, loving and the man you would want at your side in a battle. Flamboyant yes but a strong fighter. I was very happy when he got his own book and love.
As I said I try to make fun characters, rich characters that leap off the page. Sometimes as I am working on a tale a character that I thought was just a bit of the background decides to leap up and take the reins. This happened with Roland in The Traveler. He was to e the annoying elder elf who pushed Reece into becoming a man but instead he sat down and told us the tale of his life and we (I hope) come to feel for him and in the end he becomes a tragic hero.
In my current wip I have a cast of characters much larger than I had expected. The heroine of the piece is of course who’s story it is but the team working to rescue her is a cast of a dozen. This is becoming a bit heavy but I am working my way through it. As always happens one character takes the reins and you wonder why you thought they were a minor character.
So authors, do you have a good secondary character in your tale? If you don’t you might want to rework it. You need that strong background character to make your work strong.