Building Secondary Characters
Characters are what form your narrative and give shape to your plot. We sit down for hours creating and adding intricate details to our protagonist; adding layers and making them all the more interesting. But do they alone make a good novel?
Is it only on them the whole novel is structured?
Yes and no! Yes, they constitute the main part of the narrative; however, they alone do not take the narrative forward. It is secondary characters that take the narrative forward and bring out the best and worst in your protagonist.
They provide the backbone and substance to your main characters and bring out essence and depth to the narrative and protagonist.
What are secondary characters?
These can be the hero’s sidekick, villain, love interest, and all those characters that add some substance to the story and take it forward. They don’t have focal point in the whole plot but play a significant part story’s spin-off. They may appear in one scene, say they may be a driver taking the protagonist to the airport by driving passionately to reach on time, defying all odds. Or may appear throughout the narrative, say the hero’s mother advising him and taking him forward in the plot. The number of secondary characters and what is their purpose and for how long depend completely on the author and the narrative.
How helpful can they be?
Sometimes secondary characters clung to your heart for a long time. Instead of the main characters, they leave an impression on your heart and mind. Can you think of Batman without Robin, Harry Potter without Hermoine Granger, Sherlock Holmes without Dr, Watson, and so on? All these characters added layers to the stories. They brought forth the perspective that your main character didn’t or couldn’t. They provide an ear and a place of solace to the main characters. They subtly add to the course of the flow. They set the background details and environment which a main character cannot do on their own. Their flaws add more shine to the main character as they become an example of what more the main characters have.
How to develop secondary characters?
First and foremost, do not create them thinking they are secondary characters; think of them as important characters only! Give them features, add emotions, and give them their voice, thoughts, and perspective. Give them their idiosyncracies and names that readers will remember. Give them their own motive and reason why they are in the narrative. They should come as a surprise to the readers so they are hooked more. Make them in a way that the readers get a different outlook while reading the same story. This will help you add layers. However, while doing so keep in mind to keep all secondary characters are different from one another and that they do resemble. Make them as “real” as your main character.