Joe’s Post #44
Karalee and Silk both have good observations and I would like to add Charlie Jane Anders, who had some great advice on creating them. But, at least for me, they are easier for one simple reason.
They are fun.
They can do things my main characters could never do, say things they could never do, think things unthinkable. They don’t have to worry about carrying a whole story on their back. They don’t have to be politically correct. They don’t have to fear people hating them. They can live larger lives, outrageous lives, if necessary, and they can have fun.
And they know it.
It’s easy for them. All they have to do is show up, help or hinder the main character, make the reader laugh or cry a few times, perhaps even die if needed. It’s a dream job. No pressure. No real expectations. It’s all wide open for them.
Hence, the writer can have fun with them. Sure they can have arcs, sure they can have a backstory, sure they can influence the outcome of the novel, but they are accessories. Like nice boots. Nice black leather, knee high boots that… oops sorry, nearly went off into la-la land there. Where was I? Right. Boots.
So, I ask you, what’s more fun? Writing about boots or writing about complex characters who have to shoulder the load of a whole book? I know my answer.
The real trick, I think, is not that secondary characters are sometimes easier to write, certainly more fun, sometimes even more interesting than our main characters, the trick is to kick up your main character to that level.
I mean, why not have some think something unthinkable? Why not have them say something terrible? Why not risk them doing something that may get them hated? As one of my writer friends once asked me, what if your main character misbehaves?
So, rather than fearing the secondary character, they are, after all, just there for fun, what can we do to enhance our main character, and (by doing so) make the story EVEN better?
Ask your secondary characters.