Tuesday, November 1, 2011

About Secondary Characters and Being Lazy

     Halloween is over... it's time to get ready for Christmas!!! Seriously. It's never too soon.
     Anyway, there's something I've been wondering about so I thought I'd put a question out to the blogosphere. In my WIP I have a lot of characters. Of course, when you have a lot, most are secondary. My question is, how much do you develop a secondary character? I feel like I use them for my purposes- they appear to do what I need them to do, and then disappear when I don't want them around anymore. It is my story and I can do what I want, but I'm wondering if it will end up too contrived. So then I'm thinking, I need to add a scene with this character or that character because I've kind of forgotten about them lately and they haven't been around in awhile. But then am I just adding unnecessary stuff? So how much do you develop secondary characters? Is it okay if they are only around here and there?
     30 Day Song Challenge, Day 25: A Song That Makes Me Laugh
     I don't usually laugh- at least not out loud- to most songs. Let's face it, songs aren't usually that funny. Or maybe I just don't listen to the funny ones. Anyway, this is the only one I could think of.
The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars


  1. Secondary characters are tricky, and this is something I've been struggling with myself through my own WIP. Something I've realized though is that each character -- no matter how small their roll -- needs a goal, motivation, and conflict. In theory then one of these GMC would be what drives them to either assist your MC in their journey or deter them in some way because of their OWN G,M, or C.

    As for disappearing characters -- in my opinion each character should be vital to the story in some way. If they disappear, that's fine, but there needs to be a reason for it.

    Wow that is the longest comment ever. lol Hope it helped at least a little. ;)

  2. Characters that pop in an out when convenient is actually something that bothers me a lot, unless there's a good reason for it. The 'convenient' factor is part of why it bothers me, but the other is 'cause I'm dyslexic, I often will start getting names confused when there are too many characters.

    I haven't seen your MS, but most MS's with a ton of characters, when I'm beta-reading them, I figure out which characters can be deleted and their role reassigned to another character.

    If the characters are... cemented into one area of your book (like, Hunger Games, there were a ton of names in/around where the MC lived, but as soon as Katniss left they basically disappeared before a host of new characters were introduced) then that's usually fine, or if it's the MC who is intentionally seeking them out individually for knowledge/skills, I'm fine with that too because the MC is being proactive.

    It's when a character pops up (usually without a very good reason) as soon as the MC is at a standstill and says, 'I can solve that'. That's what bothers me, 'cause not only is it convenient, it means the MC is being a passive player.

    So, it really depends on your characters, your plot and the way you handle it :)

    Personally, I do try to limit my characters, but I do have stories with a lot of side characters. For those, I try to rotate the side characters so they never disappear for longer than a full chapter, or two depending on the chapter length.

    Good luck!

  3. I try to have one secondary character fill multiple roles. So Heroine's best friend can be a mentor in one or two scenes, a threshold guardian in another, even the antagonist force in yet another. That way I haven't created a character who comes in for a scene or two then disappears. I try to give these "main" secondary characters their own goal, motivation, and conflict so they pop off the page better.

    Good luck.

  4. I think that depends on how many character there are. I have one character in my ms that only shows up a few times, but I have tried to use him in a constructive way to move the story forward, if he doesn't he gone.

  5. I agree that it depends. Sometimes having alot of secondary characters pop up is not a big deal. Sometimes it caise confussion. It is all in how you execute. I would say keep going the way you are and then have some people read over it and see what they think.

  6. I think if you've really thought through your character's motivation and what they've been doing off-page then it should come through naturally (whatever you end up doing)

    I love that song and how the video could have been done by some guy in his living room with a bunch of friends.

  7. Secondary characters can be tough. But the trick to develop them only enough to the point you want the readers to care about them. The key is to make them distinct enough from the other character's, though, so that we know who you're talking about when they're mentioned. You know, the whole limp and eyepatch. Make them stand out, but if they aren't important don't give them too much of a background. Agh. I hope I'm making sense. Good luck with that though. Isn't writing full of fine lines? :)