As a 5 (fifth-res student) at Seton Hill, I was required to give a forty-five minute teaching presentation on a topic relative to writing. I chose secondary characters, and since my presentation went well, I will now share what I learned with the internet. Because that’s how I roll.
Let’s get started.
Writing a Well-Rounded Cast of Secondary Characters
Dumbledore is to Harry Potter as Obi-Wan Kenobi is to….
If you said Luke Skywalker, you would be correct. (Sorry, people who said Chewbacca.)
Excellent, you know this. Now why do you know this?
You know this because Dumbledore and Obi-Wan are both memorable, well developed secondary characters who perform specific roles in the story.
What’s a secondary character?
I’m so glad you asked!
Secondary characters are characters in a story who perform the following functions:
-support the main characters
-help main characters drive the plot
-play a variety of different roles to the main characters
But be that role mentor, friend, or partner in crime, all secondary characters need to be memorable and realistic. And they need to interact with the main character as people in real life do. After all, we don’t know everyone in our lives equally, and not all people in our lives help us through each episode we face in the same way/amount.
To illustrate this concept, I created three types of secondary characters. And here they are with examples from Harry Potter.
-Light second (McGonagall) – A light character’s “identity” (who they are) is somewhat important to the story, but their here and now is all that really matters. These characters may have a moment or two where they interact with the main plot. It’s more likely, though, that they’ll interact with subplots.
-Moderate second (Neville Longbottom) – This is the center “catch-all” category. Moderate seconds’ backstories are fleshed out to varying degrees. Actions and context clues give an idea of who the character is. These guys interact with the main plot and are important for the story in varying ways/degrees.
-Deep second (Snape) – These guys are almost primary characters. Their backstories are fleshed out for the reader to see, and they are important (maybe even integral) to the main plot.
Let’s try this.
Below are 3 characters. Which category do you think each falls into? Feel free to drop your guess (and reasoning, if you’d like) in the comments. I will go over them briefly next Wednesday before moving on to Practical Application.
Bob Cratchet – A Christmas Carol
Haymich Abernathy – The Hunger Games
Igor – Frankenstein
And join me next Wednesday for more secondary character fun.
Thanks for reading.
@desantismt on Twitter
-Kit ‘N Kabookle
My book blog