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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Don't Forget Seconds: Secondary Characters

Please welcome guest blogger Danica Avet

When we learn the craft of writing, the majority of our time is spent learning how to make the main characters' stories stronger, action-packed, and interesting. But what about the secondary characters? We can't forget about them!

I'll admit, most of the time when I'm reading a book, the secondary characters are the ones I really remember. These are characters who move on the peripheral of the main characters' lives, yet their actions help set the pace and tone of the entire book. Secondary characters have the power to change your reader's mood. If your secondary character is a joker, they can lighten a particularly heavy moment. Or, if they're stiff and dour, they can gloom up a perfectly hilarious scene which might make it even funnier.

The power of a secondary character can't be dismissed. Sometimes your secondary characters get more attention than the main characters, but that's because their actions, lack of actions, words, anything they do can have a heavy impact on a scene. Let's look at a scenario:

(I've been reading a lot historical romances lately, so pardon my non-paranormal scenario)

Lord Fufflebutt has six daughters and no money. He loses everything at the gaming tables and the only thing he has to offer the hero, Duke of Handsome, is his eldest daughter, Lady Pretty. Sounds familiar, correct? Duke of Handsome accepts her because he needs an heir, but she comes with attachments: five younger sisters (a bluestocking, a hellion, a gamester, a hoyden, a tomboy, and a loner) who get up to hijinks throughout the book. They, along with their father who is irresponsible, silly, and jolly, come and go throughout the book. Say on the wedding night, things are getting hot and heavy between Duke of Handsome and Lady Pretty when Lady Hoyden sneezes behind the screen because she was hiding in the room to escape her governness (or something). This changes the dynamics of the love scene, it could even change the dynamics between the hero and heroine. One small action by a secondary character has unbalanced what looked like a regular wedding night.

The way secondary characters come and go is essential to give your story life. A story revolving around two people with no outside interference, no matter how interesting the couple, can be stagnant and stale. I'm not saying it's impossible to do, but secondary characters are so much fun to write! They can be as outrageous, coarse, insane, whatever, as they want and readers just think "I have a friend just like that" and move on. It actually helps the reader delve further into the story.

I love writing secondary characters. Sometimes, they're more fun than the hero or heroine because the rules don't really apply to them. Yes, you can delve into their lives, but they aren't the main focus of the story so the reader only sees the surface you choose to show them. This is also a great way to set-up a series if you're so inclined. Some of my secondary characters have become main characters in my books because they were so irresisitble to me when I wrote the original story. Even I didn't know what went on behind the mask they showed, which makes it so much fun to delve deeper.

Do you enjoy writing secondary characters?

Danica Avet was born and raised in the wilds of South Louisiana (that would be somewhere around Houma) where mosquitoes are big enough to carry off small children and there are only two seasons: hot and hotter. With a BA in History, she figured there were enough fry cooks in the world and decided to try her hand at writing. For eight years she played at writing, but in 2008, she decided to get serious and began down the rocky road to publication.

Unmarried with no children, Danica is the lucky pet of a compulsively needy dog and two cats. The pitter-patter of little feet has been known to make her break out into a cold sweat.

Writing is how she gives the voices in her head a way out. They speak to her constantly wanting their stories told and she does her best to accommodate them. She writes paranormal romance and may eventually branch out to contemporaries. When she isn’t writing, working, or contemplating the complexities of the universe, she spends time gathering inspiration from her insane family, reads far more than any sane person would want to, and watches hot burly men chase an oblong ball all over a field.

Ruby Uncut and on the Loose

Ruby Fontenot, a Cajun hermit, loses control of her life when she’s tapped to become the last Lineage Chieftain in a paranormal world she had no idea existed. With the power to change the face of The Veil by choosing its leaders, Ruby is now a wanted woman. Once she meets a member of the Veilerian High Council, what began as a fight for her life turns into a fight for her heart and her freedom.

As the High Council Representative, Lucian Ravenswaay has spent decades searching for the elusive Lineage Chieftain only to discover she’s his life mate. But this vampire has bigger plans than settling down; he wants a Council seat and to get it, he’ll have to turn Ruby over to them. The line between what he wants and what he needs is blurred and making the wrong choice could mean the destruction of an entire society.


Anonymous said...

I do like writing secondary characters. A couple of times my crit partners said they liked them better than the main character. Not a good thing. LOL. :)

Great post, Danica.

Rachel Firasek said...

I loved my secondary characters so much that book 2 in my series was inspired by them. Great post!

Danica Avet said...

Lynn - I had the same thing happen with my 2ndary characters. They somtimes steal the show!

Rachel - I'm the exact same way. They're so much fun to write, I always feel they should have their own story told!

Jillian said...

Lynn- I have had the same problem with a couple of readers of one of my books- they both wished the friend had been the heroine- but the friend was the comic relief to the broken hearted heroine! It would not have worked the other way around.

Great post, Danica!

Marsha A. Moore said...

I agree secondary characters add a lot of flavor to the story. I often feel freer to play with my secondary characters since I don't have to be as strict with them following a predetermined growth arc.

Great post, Danica!

Lisa Kessler said...

Great blog Danica!!! :)

Good secondary characters can definitely keep a series moving along... I meet them and want to see how their story unfolds... :)

Have to be careful they don't take away from your hero though! LOL