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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Secondary Shoes (RE-POST)

My daughter only wears her dance shoes for about fifteen hours a week, but boy, they are important to her. She takes good care of them and loves the way they feel on her feet. They could never take the place of her street shoes, though. This is how our readers should feel about our secondary characters. In The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass spends an entire chapter on secondary characters. The bottom line is, they shouldn't overshadow our main characters, but they should be special. One way to achieve this is to show their impact on our main characters. What about them draws our protagonist to them? What makes our protagonist want to be around them, or not be around them? He suggests thinking about our own lives and who has been special to us. Who do we choose to surround ourselves with? This is where the fire comes in. This is where the passion comes in. Apparently, according to my beta readers, I've succeeded here. Yay, me! No, not really. One of my secondary characters seems to be more appealing than one of my main characters. I can't have that now, can I? I think what Mr. Maass would suggest is to make the secondary characters special to the extent that they are useful to the main characters. In other words, our readers should care (or not care) about our secondary characters as much as our main characters do. No more and no less. What do you think? How do you develop your secondary characters without overshadowing your protagonists?

12 comments:

Cassandra Frear said...

Give them one or two defining characteristics. Let the reader fill in the rest.

staceyjwarner said...

Hi love,

Stopping by to say hi and wishing well.
-stacey

Leah Rubin said...

I think that the secondary characters often play a significant role in what compels readers to stick with a book. Think about Sara Paretsky's Lottie and Mr. Contreras in the V.I. Warshawski novels, or Henry and Rosie in the Sue Grafton series...

Elana Johnson said...

I think this is so hard to do. I've read a lot of books where I like the secondary character more than the MC. It's made me pay attention to my secondary characters more and why perhaps people may like them better.

Not sure I have any advice though...

jenheadjen said...

I think having a great secondary character always makes me wish for a sequel with them as the main character. Unless of course they end up marrying the main character or something... then they're not really secondary, are they?

Deb@RGRamblings said...

I find secondary characters easier. I tend to make them a little stereotypical. Shiny on the outside with little hint of what's going on inside. When their internal issues start to grow too big, I know I've got a problem.

Imola said...

A comment that may seem to go against all creative writing techniques: would it not be much more rewarding to write the book / novel / short-story... through and THEN decide on your main character, bearing in mind which has had the most extraordinary evolution? This piece of advice may not help you structure your book, yet it may help you get a better character in the end, since it develops freely, since you allow it to unfold naturally (although this implies rewriting the book once the first draft is finished so as to match your choice in terms of main / secondary characters).

#167 Dad said...

John Steinbeck, Robrt B. Parker and Srephen King come to mind. Their supporting characters are interesting, sometimes at least as interesting as the main characters.

Nancy said...

I was thinking it might be possible to have a main character who was not as likable as a secondary character. Perhaps a boy who is always taunting a girl, but the girl has a lovely friend that just isn't involved in the plot as much. Also, what about Olicer, Nancy, and Fagin? Nancy was nicer than Fagin, but he was one of the main characters.

kanishk said...

It's made me pay attention to my secondary characters more and why perhaps people may like them better.

Work from home India

Glynis said...

I have found one of my secondary characters is in danger of becoming my POV, Kitty. I am trying to open up Kitty's character a little more, if not I have to reconstruct the ms.

Interesting post.

Vonna said...

Well, I haven't quite conquered this. I wrote the first version of my now almost finished WIP with a different MC, but my readers told me that my main secondary character was the one they really wanted to hear about. So I scrapped that one and rewrote the whole thing. I love my new MC, (he really is more interesting!) and the story works so much better. Sometimes you've just got to go with it.