My Reflections on Writing Excuses 13.11 – Writing Secondary Characters Charlaine Harris

First immediate reaction upon listening to the episode – THAT is a wonderful accent.

Second, I was a struck by the idea that secondary characters were mostly to be considered within the course of a series, that they gave you someone to promote or focus on in later books.

I don’t think that was the intention and I very well may be misunderstanding some of the episode. It just seemed to me that most of the conversation about writing secondary characters centered on the idea of using them else where in a story universe. Inner me reacted, What about all those stories that are stand alone? Are secondary characters not important there?

After I calmed my inner self down, I tried to go bigger picture. When I’ve worked on secondary characters, do I think of them in terms that make them bigger than just the scenes they appear in? Do they have more presence than just delivering that line or doing that action? I think part of that has to do with “backstory” and part with how much impact they have on the plot.

But for me, secondary characters are easiest to write when I think about how they interact with other characters. Unless they get their own POV, secondary characters are only going to be seen when my POV character is also present. If I were to eventually 3rd person omniscient, then this might not apply, but for all the stories I’ve done, this has been true. So, for those moments of interaction, what can I do to make that scene more engaging?

Part of that comes down to the underlying craft of making sure that scenes are always pulls double or triple duty – if you work to make the scenes impactful, I think the secondary characters benefit from this same work.

I go back to Maurice’s approach from the previous episode – if the character get’s a name, they get worked up and fleshed out. I think I do something similar. There’s something about giving a character a name that almost demands that they have a backstory, that they be thought of as characters.

Which brings us to our question of the day: What secondary characters from stand-alone works do you most remember?

Let us know below.

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