Thank you Author Libby Mercer for letting me participate in The Girly Book Blog Hop! I am so happy to be here discussing secondary characters!
All of the books I write feature one main character. As I write the book, I focus on her goals and the obstacles that stand in the way of her achieving them and I try to flesh her out as much as possible. What does she look like? Is she single or in a relationship? Is she reserved and cautious or is she impulsive and rebellious? What is her relationship with her family? Most of the book is written to tell her story and how she gets from her status on page one to “the end.”
But how boring would a book be if there was only one character? Not everyone can write a story like Cast Away or 127 hours, both of which featured only one character for the majority of the film and yet managed to capture my attention for approximately 2 hours. With very few exceptions, I want to see the main character interact with other people. If the book includes a romantic element, the main character needs a love interest (or 2 or 3). If the book features a career goal, we might need someone the main character competes with or a boss to either support or stand in the way of her goals. Unless we want all of our main character’s feelings to be written in narrative or inner dialogue, we need friends and/or family for her to vent to. In a nutshell, it is extremely difficult to write a story with ups and downs, twists and turns, conflict and resolution if the main character has no interactions with other people. And that is where the secondary characters come in.
In almost every review of my first novel, Just Friends with Benefits, people commented about Stephanie’s group of friends and how they added a comedic element to the book. People said that Stephanie’s friends reminded them of their own. She had the friend who refused to sugar coat when Stephanie did something stupid. She had the best guy friend who acted as her big brother, both teasing and protective. She had the younger friend who turned Stephanie from advice seeker to advice giver. And she had the platonic friend on whom she secretly crushed. She also had a Jewish mother who constantly badgered her about her single status. All of these characters (and more) added spice to Stephanie’s life and to the novel.
In my newly released novel, A State of Jane, Jane is the main character but sharing some of the spotlight is her well-meaning and sometimes promiscuous roommate Lainie; her loyal, yet unlucky-in-love best friend Marissa; her older sister Claire; her easy going dad and sometimes domineering mother; her mentor in all-things-men, colleague Andrew and her ex boyfriend of nine years, Bob (among others).
Admittedly, I tend to focus mainly on the protagonist in my first draft and it is not until later revisions (and sometimes prodding by my beta readers or editor) to flesh out my secondary characters so that they are not only there to support my main character but also have lives of their own. My friends are always there to listen to and support me but it goes both ways and our conversations do not always revolve around me. To make my novels more realistic, I give my secondary characters their own problems and I think it is an important feature in books in my genre. First of all, a character would not be very likeable if all she did was talk about herself. Secondly, secondary characters can add a lot of humor and depth to a story.
Notwithstanding the paragraph above, it is important not to create such a strong storyline for a secondary character that it overpowers the main plot line nor would I recommend creating a character who is considerably more interesting than the main character. Secondary characters should add to the book but not take it over. If a secondary character is on the verge of stealing the spotlight, it might be a sign that the novel should be rewritten to focus on that character instead!
And there you have it, my thoughts on secondary characters!
In order to win an ebook of A State of Jane (Kindle or Nook download), please leave a comment below with a) your email address and b) your favorite secondary character from a chick lit novel. And don’t forget to check out the posts of all of the other great participating authors!
“Jane Frank is ready to fall in love. It’s been a year since her long term relationship ended and far too long since the last time she was kissed. With the LSAT coming up she needs to find a long term boyfriend (or husband) before acing law school and becoming a partner at her father’s law firm. There’s just one problem: all the guys in New York City are flakes. They seemingly drop off the face of the earth with no warning and no explanation. Should she join her best friend Marissa in singlehood, making cupcakes and watching True Blood? Or should she follow her co-worker Andrew’s advice and turn the game back on those who scorned her? As Jane attempts to juggle her own responsibilities and put up with the problems of everyone around her, she starts to realize that the dating life isn’t as easy as she originally thought.”