This week we’re discussing secondary characters. Talia wrote an excellent post on reasons your stories should include them. Secondary characters can be enormously useful, providing humor, moving the plot along, and revealing the hero and heroine’s personality or history through interaction.
But it’s summer. Hot weather is here and you’ve just put your all into creating your main characters. In an effort to help you come up with killer secondary characters, I’d like to offer these 13 possibilities (One through six are gleaned from Leigh Micheal’s “On Writing Romance,” and 7-13 are collected from James N. Frey’s “The Key.”)
As with all the books from which I borrow information, I heartily recommend you give the original texts a read. They’re good references chocked full of helpful advice.
1) The Significant Third. This person is almost a main character and usually supplies the source of conflict between the main characters. Often he or she is a child or dependent. Leigh Michael gives an example of a sick father that the heroine hires a nurse to care for.
2) The Villain
3) The Other Woman/ The Rival. She desires the prize – and is intent on claiming it before the heroine.
4) The Wrong Man. Although the heroine and reader know this guy isn’t “right” for the heroine, the Wrong Man doesn’t. He continues to pursue her, creating multiple problems.
5) Meddlesome Relatives
6) Best Friends. Well meaning or not, they often volunteer information that advances the plot.
7) A Magical Helper. This is the person who, like Q in the James Bond series, equips the heroine/hero for adventure.
8) The Wise One. This person gives advice, often wise counsel. She/he might be the best friend or even one of those meddlesome relatives.
9) The Trickster. This might be a con man or a fast talker. In the “Wizard of Oz,” this is the professor that Dorothy meets when she runs away from home.
10) The Fool. Usually in the beginning of the book, this character spouts nonsense and no one takes him or her seriously, but by the end of the tale this character surprisingly turns out to have unexpected wisdom.
11) The Shape-Shifter. This character doesn’t actually have to change shape. It’s really that he or she alters appearance within the tale. Cinderella is a shape-shifter. Within her home, she’s dressed in rags, but when she attends the prince’s ball, she looks like a princess.
12) The Crone. An old woman, she may be evil -- like the witch in “Snow White” --or she may be misunderstood like the Witch of the Wastes in “Howl’s Moving Castle.”
13) The Nymph. This character is a beautiful, young thing who may be a flirt, but doesn’t have to be. The childlike empress of Fantastica in “The Never-Ending Story,” seems to fit this classification.
Of course there are a lot more characters and archetypes you can write into your stories. More are mentioned in “The Key,” and “On Writing Romance” -- and I bet you have suggestions. Please share your favorite secondary characters. And tell us why.
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