Developing a cast of memorable characters isn’t easy. Writers are told to develop their main character well with motivation, internal and external conflict–but sometimes don’t put the same emphasis on secondary characters because they’re too worried about their MC.
It’s easy to manipulate secondary characters and sub plots to support your story, but they have to be much more than leading the reader. We can tell when a writer is using secondary characters to prove a point. So why not build a varied cast of secondary characters that feel like they also exist in real life–like your MC.
How to write secondary characters in your subplots:
- They should feel like they have a life of their own and are just popping into this story for a minute. Your secondary characters’ lives shouldn’t revolve around the main character’s. They should feel like they live on after the book is done.
- They should have their own motivations. How are they involved in the story other than being a friend? Think about them as being bigger than a convenient tool. They should feel organic and authentic, not a puppet of the writer and the message.
- They should contribute to the external conflict, not just be there for quiet talks over coffee. The best secondary characters aren’t merely a sounding board or a place to use dialogue when you’re tired of exposition. The best secondary characters are part of the main plot or theme, too.
- They should compare and/or contrast to your main character’s quirks and struggles. Similar characters mute stories and make them forgettable. Secondary characters and their subplots should be unique and show differences and/or similarities. Use them subtly and organically, and it will help you prove your point without hitting us over the head.
Writing secondary characters should take as much time as your main character. Make them larger than life. Write their characters sketches.
Q: How do you make sure your secondary characters are memorable?