I went back to my closet and went through all my “keepers” looking for a book with notable secondary characters. (I usually pass my books on to others, as we are very short on space in military quarters.) Out of all my keepers I could not come up with six books – or series of books, that had a moving secondary character, one that influenced the story in a memorable way, other than the antagonist. Even in my Collection of the great Jane Austin, I felt the secondary characters were so lacking. In Pride & Prejudice, Jane is such a lackluster individual it is hard to imagine that she and Elisabeth came from the same family.
The one notable exception of course is the Harry Potter series, I love how both Ron Weasly and Hermione Granger help Harry along his true path, supporting him when he needs support, and standing up to him when he is wrong. But what does JK Rowling do wrong? Besides not write about Harry for the rest of her life! Just kidding, we do not want this bright mind to burn out.
But as for my main reading genre, Romance, nothing really stands out. What does that mean? Does it mean in Romance secondary characters are not important? Why have them? Are they just filling up space? No, because all characters must have an impact on the story, correct? Why would they be there if they have no impact and if they have an impact, why can I not remember them?
I do recall one secondary character that did leave an impact on me but it was one of pity, I felt so badly that the heroine treated her friend so badly, it actually made me hate the story because I could not care less about the heroine after her callous treatment of someone who truly cared about her well being.
So, as I wrestle with the role of my secondary characters in my book, I leave you with a list of questions about secondary characters.
1. Are they a necessity to the Romance Genre?
2. What type of role do they have in the structure of a Novel?
3. Do we need the impacts of these characters to be sublime in order not to detract from the story?
4. If antagonists are not considered secondary characters, can a secondary character also be an antagonist?
5. How much of an impact should a secondary character have on your protagonists’ goal, conflict, and motivation?
6. Should they all impact our story, or are some just along for the ride.
I will not taint your opinions with my answers right now, I just would like you to ponder these questions and use your answers to assist your in your MIP. Cheers!