Category Archives: Writing In General

The Secondary Character

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately since I have a stress fracture in my foot and the way my uterus is positioned is causing a lot of sciatic nerve issues. I can’t be as active as I was earlier in my pregnancy, I’ve been stuck laying down a lot so this has led to more reading.

I’ll admit I have a soft spot for silly historical mystery type books (things in the vein of the Da Vinci Code) and lately I’ve been reading an author named Steve Berry. I’m not gonna say these are the greatest books ever written because they’re not. They have a lot of cliche and the occasional ridiculous and unnecessary romance side plot but they are entertaining. One reason I’ve been reading them is looking at the way he develops his characters, the main characters are always very three dimensional. They’ve got a history and they are obviously well developed in his mind. The other characters are often not, they’re a lot more one dimensional and that is what leads to a lot of the cliche and some of the silliness in the books. When the characters your main character interacts with are underdeveloped it makes their interactions have to be somewhat simple and cliched.

Some of the secondary characters he utilizes are The Ex Wife. She is predictably bitchy and very rarely is she a sympathetic character. Then there’s the Older Friend/Mentor/Father Figure. This character is almost always wealthy and either has no children or lost their children when they were young so the main character is a sort of replacement. And finally there’s the Mysterious Attractive Other Woman. She’s younger, extremely attractive in that unrealistic supermodel sort of way and also is stereotypically bitchy until the main character saves her or outsmarts her.

I read books like this 1. because they’re fast, they distract my mind and they are entertaining and 2. as a writer who doesn’t want to create cliche characters and cliche interactions between my characters. It forces me to go back over my own writing and rethink how my characters interact and whether or not a secondary character is just a stock character or if I have a fully fleshed out idea of who they are and why they are doing what they’re doing.

I’ve found I have a lot of editing to do, which I guess is a good thing. More stuff to do while I can’t do anything other than lay down.